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Audience remains positive about theatrical experience, but F&B business, single screens may be hit: Study

Ormax Media surveyed over 1,000 regular cine-goers during the lockdown to understand the prospects for reopening theatres.

File photo. Only for representation

Our Correspondent

A study of cine-goers by media consulting firm Ormax Media suggests that single-screen theatres and the food and beverages (F&B) business of multiplexes might struggle to recover in the post-lockdown scenario, but the theatre-going audience remains more or less intact.

Ormax surveyed over 1,000 regular theatre-goers across 58 cities and towns in India and came up with some interesting observations. Close to 82% of the respondents expressed positive views about returning to watch films in cinema halls while 69% confirmed that they were willing to return for different kinds of films, not just blockbusters.

In addition, 48% were willing to return to cinemas within two or three weeks of their reopening. However, a majority was also of the opinion that theatres would have to put strict safety measures in place to avoid a spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Multiplex Association of India has already put forward several guidelines for exhibitors and theatre owners to follow once the lockdown ends. These include physical distancing, no-contact ticket sales, staggered seating, and frequent cleaning of screening halls.

While the survey shows an overall positive attitude towards theatrical viewing, it does not express much optimism for single-screen theatres. Only 6% of the surveyed audience believed that single-screen theatres would be able to conform to safety norms. While the percentage increases for Tamil and Telugu film audiences (19%), the overall trend shows a trust deficit.

Similarly, 48% of the surveyed audience said they would not consume food and beverages at the same level as before the pandemic struck. The Ormax report added that the trade expects a 60% deficit in F&B sales once cinemas across the country reopen.

The study also confirmed the increase in online cinema-viewing activity, with 60% of the audience saying it was watching more films on OTT platforms. Of these, Amazon Prime Video took the lead in Hindi and regional cinema, while Netflix led the group for Hollywood and international films. Amazon Prime has acquired quite a few Hindi films, including the Amitabh Bachchan-Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Gulabo Sitabo and Vidya Balan's Shakuntala Devi, for digital release next month. 

While many believe the move to OTT is a temporary phase, the Ormax report suggests audiences are concerned about safety measures and will wait for theatre owners to implement them fully. The lockdown, initiated in mid-March, is in place till at least 31 May.

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