Dealing with Covid-19 : Shuttered cinemas face new challenges
LAHORE: For movie fans, the wait may still not be over. The long intermission triggered by the Covid-19 health crisis may gradually be coming to an end, but the return to movie theatres that remained closed for months during the pandemic, comes with conditions and a long list of challenges.
While the government has revoked its restrictions on the duration of movies, cinema owners are still at odds over the duration of intervals between the shows. Moreover, as they decide to raise the curtains once again, they are also facing the logistical challenge of bringing new movies to the big screen.
Shortly after the lockdown was lifted, the government decided to introduce a mandatory gap of 40-60 minutes between each show.
Details available with the Express Tribune show that the cinema owners are at odds over the plan given to them by the Department of Primary and Secondary Health.
With the proposed interval between the shows coupled with the restriction on the seating, cinema owners believe they will not be able to earn enough money to pay for expenses.
“By introducing the mandatory gap of 40-60 minutes the government has also limited the number of shows. We will only be able to screen three shows per day,” said Chairman Film Exhibitors Association, Zoraiz Lashari, adding that the biggest challenge for cinema owners is the acquisition of new films. “Immediate availability of new films in Pakistan does not look possible anytime soon,” said Lashari.
With strict restrictions on the seating and a long list of precautions, it appears the cinemas are all set for tough days ahead. One irked movie fan said: “They need to come up with a plan to deal with the situation.” “If Covid-19 is here to stay, we can’t be deprived of movies forever. They need to come up with a plan to restore the cinemas,” the moviegoer emphasized.
On the other hand, the provincial administration reiterated its concerns about public safety. “Coronavirus is a contagious disease and keeping the people safe from it is the first responsibility of the government,” said Secretary Primary and Secondary Health, Captain (Retd) Usman Younis.
The SOPs for the cinemas, Younis said, are designed to give the staff plenty of time to disinfect the space. “We have abolished the limitations on the duration of each show, but it is important that we have an interval of 40-60 minutes between each show to allow the management to sanitize the counters, seats and other commonly used facilities at cinemas,” said Captain (Retd) Usman Younis.
According to the owners, the losses incurred during the outbreak will have a lasting impact on the already weak cinema industry.
“Cinemas were already contending with the new streaming services. We don’t expect to survive this crisis,” cautioned on owner.