The Tamil Nadu Government’s order allowing shops and establishments to remain open 24/7 on all days of the year is likely to soon apply to theatres in the State as well.
The order says that the rule will be implemented for the next three years, starting from May 28, in establishments employing over 10 people. Tirupur Subramaniam, the president of Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association, told Silverscreen that they have sent a letter to the Home Secretary, requesting implementation of this rule, a long-standing demand of theatre owners.
Rakesh Gowthaman, the owner of Vettri Theatres, also tweeted about this. It is expected that the new rule will be in place in the next two to three months.
This won’t be applicable for TN theatres for now but soon yes. TN Exhibitor Association will be representing this to the Home Secretary seeking for approval shortly.
This will very helpful during festive seasons & during clash of big releases but will reduce days of movie run. pic.twitter.com/KHdrJBtIZT
— Rakesh Gowthaman (@VettriTheatres) June 6, 2019
The Theatre Owners’ Association, Tamil Film Producers’ Council and others have not taken an official stand on this yet. However, theatre owners have largely welcomed the rule as it promises more shows and revenue, and will be mainly helpful during the clash of big budget Tamil films.
Tirupur Subramaniam said that “the Government has not given clarity on how to implement this yet. But it will cater to employees of IT and other sectors who work round-the-clock. 24-hours entertainment is a good thing”.
Theatres in the State currently run four shows and remain open from 10am to 2am, with two shifts for employees. If they opt for the new rule, there will be a third shift. The criticism against this is that the rule may not be practically viable and could result in exploitation of workers, even though the Government order says that employees must not work for more than eight hours a day, and women can work between 8pm and 6am only after they give written consent to their employer and are provided with adequate protection and transport facilities.
“In theatres, this won’t be difficult to manage because labour laws provide clarity about implementing this. We will simply have an additional shift,” says Tirupur Subramaniam.
However, film producers have opposed the rule because it will make returns on their investments more uncertain. They say they are already facing losses with four shows. C Ravindran of Libra Productions, who backed Natpuna Ennanu Theriyuma and acquired the theatrical rights for the upcoming Yogi Babu-starrer Gurkha, said that the rule would not benefit producers in any way.
“The morning shows are already running empty and theatres are calling them off. We don’t know if crowds will come late at night and if we can recover the cost of screening, lighting, employee wages and other things. The chances for this to practically work out in TN theatres are very few. I doubt if even malls will implement this. But, we must wait and see until the first film screens under the rule,” he said.
It is likely that the theatres in multiplexes and malls will implement this rule on the first two days after the release of big budget films and festival releases. It will also be the theatre owners’ decision to implement the rule for small budget films if they call for an increase in number of screens after release, due to good content and reviews.
Kavya Mahesh, producer at Auraa Cinemas, says this rule will be useful for producers only if they have others’ support in recovering the cost. “Producers pay Qube the cost for every screening, and they must recover this in addition to the investment on production. If Qube decides to charge us less for these shows, it will be useful. Otherwise, it is a loss for producers,” she says.
Rakesh Gowthaman says the expenditure for theatre owners will also increase. “If this is a regular pattern, we can add another shift. But if we implement this for two days in three months, I don’t see it being viable. As exhibitors, we will have problems with monitoring and staffing. It will be difficult to operate during the night, especially in single- screen theatres. It becomes too expensive for us.”
But the bigger problem is the uncertainty that such a rule brings. Theatre owners cannot guarantee the number of shows to producers and distributors in their agreement signed before release. Further, movie reviews will have a bigger impact on revenue on the opening day itself.
He says, “1 am shows were common 10 years ago. I remember, Rajinikanth’s Baba (2002) was screened at 1am. Even though social media wasn’t big then, the movie was called a disaster and the ticket sales dipped for the noon show. Since then, people have been avoiding 1am shows and late night shows, because the word will spread by morning, and there may not be a good opening on the first day.”
He adds, “A movie may or may not run as expected. Even during the run cycle, there can be a drastic drop, affecting the revenue cycle. We will have more shows on the first three days, and will have to wait until the next release for a good run once again.”