Producers reluctant to release films as audiences may not visit halls fearing the coronavirus
After a closure of seven months to prevent the outbreak of coronavirus, the Ministry of Information has permitted a reopening of all cinema halls across the country from Friday.
But the cinema halls have to meet conditions, such as keeping half the seats vacant, abiding by health rules, wearing face masks and several other rules.
However, most cinema halls remain closed even after getting permission to reopen, especially the large cinema halls of the capital, which are yet to restart their operations.
On visits to cinema halls in the capital, The Business Standard found that circumstances are the same everywhere. The large cinema halls in Dhaka, like Modhumita, Bolaka, Jonaki and Asia are still under lock and key.
Watch the video on why Cinema Halls didn't open their doors after getting permission from the government
The key reason behind not reopening the halls is the absence of quality movies. Although the censor board has cleared about 22 big budget films, they have not been released in any cinema halls even in seven months.
Film producers have expressed their unwillingness to release the films as audiences will not visit cinema halls for fear of contracting the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, some of the cinema halls have reopened with a movie, "Shahosi Hero Alom." The film is directed by Mukul Netrabadi, and Alom himself stars in the lead role. He is also a producer of the film.
The film has been released in around 40 cinema halls across the country.
The film is being screened at Ananda Cinema Hall in Dhaka. Another old movie, "Rajdhanir Raja," is being screened in Chhando cinema hall.
However, none of the two halls had the expected level of audience in the morning shows.
Cinema halls have been opened after many days, and people do not have any idea about that, said Md Alauddin, the manager of the two halls.
"Around 30 employees of this cinema hall had been unemployed for the past seven months. They did not get salaries. And we had to borrow money for our survival. We are delighted to know that the cinema halls will reopen," he said.
He continued, "We have started following the necessary hygiene rules. I have sprayed the seats with germ killer. I have also provided masks to those among the audience who came without them. Audiences are thin as the hall has opened after seven months. But I think the number of visitors will gradually increase."
Shamim Mia, a small trader from Tejkuni Bazar, came to enjoy a movie at Ananda Cinema Hall on Friday afternoon. Before entering the cinema hall, he said, "I came to watch the movie knowing that the cinema hall has opened after a long time. I haven't seen what film is being screened."
He had watched "Password", starring Shakib Khan, the last time.
A visit to Balaka Cinema Hall in the capital showed the main entrance locked. A security guard sitting there said he did not know when the cinema hall would open.
When contacted through mobile phone, Md Shahin, the manager of the hall, said, "We have not decided to open the hall yet. We will assess the situation first and then will decide whether to open the hall or not."
A similar situation prevails at Madhumita cinema hall in Motijheel. An employee, seeking anonymity, said that he had no idea when the hall would be opened.
Contacted through mobile phone, Iftekhar Uddin Nowshad, owner of Madhumita cinema hall and a former president of the cinema distributors' association, said,"How can I open the cinema hall without an audience and quality movies? We will not be able to screen the movies that are screened in other halls. To get the audience back, we need quality films made with large budgets," he said.
Chitra Mahal, a cinema hall in the old part of Dhaka, was also screening "Shahosi Hero Alom", as the hall did not have any other movie to screen.
The manager of the hall was unavailable. But the watchman, Md Aslam, said that even though it has been closed for seven months, the owner of the hall paid all the employees amid the pandemic.
The reopening of the hall on Friday has brought a sense of relief to the employees. He said, "Although audience attendance at the morning show was not according to expectations, the afternoon show was well attended. Most of the audience came to see the movie of hero Alom."
Audiences were maintaining health and hygiene rules, he added.
Cinema halls outside Dhaka have also remained closed. Although Monihar, the largest cinema hall of Jashore, has reopened, audience attendance was not up to the mark.
Ziaul Haque, managing director of the hall, said, "We have reopened the hall in compliance with hygiene rules. However, the number of visitors was low as people do not know that the cinema halls have been opened."
Investigations also found that though more than 22 films have been cleared by the Censor Board, none of the producers except for Hero Alom applied for the release of the films.
Star Cineplex in the capital will open on 23 October. It is currently undergoing a clean-up drive.
However, cinemas houses at Jamuna Shopping Mall in the capital have restarted operations. An official of the Jamuna Group said that the number of the visitors was low.