Television
Report on Shemaroo

What the second Covid2019 wave means for Maharashtra

Cinema halls, theatres shut, while film shoots allowed to continue

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New Delhi: The unabated increase in the number of Covid2019 cases has once again threatened to stall the pace of the financial and entertainment capital of the country. As Maharashtra reported 57,074 positive cases in the last 24 hours, the Shiv Sena-led coalition government has announced strict restrictions all over the state, including Mumbai, till 30 April.

The rules, which come into effect on Monday, include a night curfew from 8 pm to 7 am and a complete lockdown over the weekends from 8 pm on Fridays to 7 am on Mondays. Except for essential services, everything will be closed on weekends.

The government has banned any kind of gathering of five or more throughout the day. Industrial operations and construction activity will continue, however, all the malls, restaurants, bars, gyms, sports complexes, auditoriums, and places of worship will be closed. Schools, colleges, private classes too will remain shut except for students of Class 10th and 12th. E-commerce will be allowed from 7 am to 8 pm for home delivery only if the staff is vaccinated, or else the establishment will be fined Rs 1,000.

Cinema halls shut, shoots to continue

The state government has permitted the film and television shoots to continue under strict guidelines, to enable the entertainment industry to get back on its feet. However, it will have to battle the severe consequences of complete closure of theatres, cinema halls, and multiplexes which were already working under 50 per cent capacity since mid-March.

The restrictions could land a serious blow to the entertainment industry, which not only faces an imminent loss of theatrical revenues but an impending threat to its revival plans. Another lockdown could compel filmmakers and production studios to reconsider their intent to release films in cinemas this summer, which may ultimately head to streaming. However, it can’t be denied that certain curbs are required, with film personalities engaged in active projects falling prey to the deadly virus. Actors Akshay Kumar, Govinda, TV host Aditya Narayan (part of the current season of Indian Idol) were among the increasing number of celebrities who tested positive on Sunday.

Cinema halls, which were already struggling to lure audiences back to theatres, could face an uphill task, as the sudden surge, is likely to make the public apprehensive about cinema-going. Advertising in cinema halls will also take a beating, as the restrictions come into effect. It may also slow down consumer spending during the weekends, due to the closure of malls.

Maharashtra accounts for the largest percentage of screen share for companies like PVR Cinemas, which has 140 screens in the state. 

Meanwhile, the television producers and broadcasters were left guessing how they would keep shooting their episodes with curfew being imposed between 8 pm and 7 am. Additionally, there was a lack of clarity whether they would be able to film on Saturdays and Sundays with Thackeray declaring a total lockdown. For some time now, the former have been beseeching creative professionals in television channels to not insist on plugging in wedding and mass gathering scenes in episodes on account of the increasing cases in the state. Apparently, the Indian Film and Television Producers Council (IFTPC) is slated to seek clarifications from the government.

Vaccination, IPL provides a glimmer of hope

The ongoing vaccination drive has provided a glimmer of hope. As many as 3.44 crore people have been vaccinated in the country so far. On Sunday, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said the state’s focus is going to be on the vaccination drive and it would need 25 crore vaccines for its people. “At a time like this, when cases are rising, ‘life first and work later’ needs to be the priority,” he urged people.

But how long it will take to vaccinate enough people to decelerate the rise in infections, no one can say. Till then, it remains certain that the entertainment industry might keep hemming and hawing for the coming weeks, as the government deliberates upon its next step.

On the bright side, the return of the fourteenth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) to the home ground is likely to boost the morale of the advertising industry and provide an uptick in revenue. The Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) has maintained that it will stick to its initial schedule and is confident of pulling off the matches in Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium, despite ten members of the ground staff testing positive. Mumbai is slated to host ten matches of the cash-rich league. However, Hyderabad is being discussed as a backup venue option. A few players including Axar Patel also tested positive on Sunday. 

Lockdown on the weekends could possibly prove to be a boon in disguise for the television industry, especially while the IPL is underway, as the daily streaming and TV viewing could go up during the two days when people will have to remain at home. A significant number of IPL matches are scheduled on weekends.

Biggest single-day spike ever

India breached a grim milestone on Monday, with 1.01 lakh Coronavirus infections being reported for the first time in the country. Ten states contribute to 90 per cent of the total cases, led by Maharashtra which currently accounts for around 58 per cent of the total Covid2019 caseloads  in the country. The active number of infected cases in the state stands at four lakh, while the fatalities have mounted to 55,656.

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