Theatres in Kerala under lockdown until 31 March due to Coronavirus outbreak; Tovino Thomas and Mohanlal's films postponed
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan ‘requested’ theatres to close down till 31 March, as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of coronavirus
Cinema theatres in Kerala are under lockdown, from today to 31 March as eight new cases of the coronavirus grips the state, taking the total count of patients to 14, with more than thousand under observation. Kerala has been on high alert for a couple of days, and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has announced that public gatherings must be avoided at any cost.
To contain the spread, the Kerala government announced that all educational institutes will remain closed for rest of the month and all public functions would be cancelled. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also ‘requested’ theatres to close down till 31 March, as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of the disease.
M Renjith, president of Kerala Film Producers Association, conducted a meeting with all stake holders - exhibitors, producers, technicians and distributors recently, and then made a public announcement. “As per the state government request we are closing down cinema halls. We will be holding a review meeting on 16 March and taking stock of the situation. We'll then take a call on when to open the screens. We are hopeful that within a fortnight we will be back in operation if the situation improves and no more cases of COVID-19 are reported.”
Meanwhile shooting of nearly 27 Malayalam films in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and other parts of India will continue based on the health scenario prevailing at the various shooting locations. Necessary safety precautions are being carried out, according to several reports.
Suresh Shenoy, the leading theatre owner in Ernakulam, says: “The fear over corona virus due to fresh cases in Kerala has resulted in declining footfalls. When we open again, movies that have been performing well at the time of closure will continue and films which were scheduled to release in March will be given priority. Depending on the number of days we are shut, the losses would be upward of Rs 100 crs for the industry. ”
Malayalam cinema is going through a great run in 2020 with Boban Kunchacko’s Anjam Paathira which released early January, turning out to be a blockbuster. Following that in February, Prithviraj’s Ayyappanum Koshiyum and Dulquer’s Varane Avashyamundu and Tovino Thomas’s Forensic were hits. Fahadh Faasil’s Trance took the year’s best ever opening. The industry was booming, with large number of new multiplexes opening in various parts of Kerala. The overseas Kerala market was also turning out to be lucrative for Malayalam cinema.
Just before the shutdown, Tovino Thomas announced through his social media pages that his road comedy Kilometres and Kilometres scheduled for a 12 March, release was getting pushed due to prevailing situations in Kerala. Another film which will have a delayed release will be Mohanlal’s big budget, Priyadarsan-directed period action drama Marakkar: Lion Of The Arabian Sea. The film, dubbed into Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, was supposed to have a simultaneous release worldwide on 26 March, now remains postponed.
Suresh Kumar, an active member of Kerala Film Producers Association, says: “The coronavirus is going to be a huge setback for Malayalam film industry and I think the losses would run into crores.”
Another concern is the release of major other language films, especially Tamil films that have a huge market in Kerala. Among them is Vijay’s Master which is as big in Kerala as any Malayalam superstar films. Master is scheduled for release on 9 April, and now with reshuffling of dates it will create more tension to theatre programmers. The other big Tamil summer releases in Kerala are Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru, Dhanush’s Jagame Thandhiram and Jayam Ravi’s Bhoomi. Akshay Kumar’s Rohit Shetty directed Sooryavanshi, slated for 24 March will also have a delayed release in Kerala. Marvel Studios are planning a Malayalam dubbed version of Black Widow, slated for an India release on 30 April.
Mukesh R Mehta, Malayalam producer and distributor, weighs in. “April/May is the peak summer season for Malayalam cinema. This year the traditional Ramadan fasting period, when footfalls in theatres in Kerala are at its lowest, is coming bang in the middle of the summer season from 25 April to 23 May. Summer is also a period to revive the industry in a big way before monsoon hits Kerala normally in the first week of June.”
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