Will cinemas in Maharashtra once again not be granted permission to reopen? It seems so if chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s address to the state today (8th August) is any indication. In the live webcast, Thackeray stated that starting 15th August, local train travel would be permitted for all those who had taken both their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, 14 days should have elapsed from the date of the second vaccination, he added. While he added that a decision about relaxation of timings for restaurants, shops, malls and religious places would be taken after a meeting of the task force on Monday (9th August), he did not make any mention of cinemas. That could imply that the much-expected reopening of cinemas might still not happen. On 2nd August, 2021 too, the Modified Guidelines, issued by the state government, categorically mentioned that cinemas and multiplexes would remain closed till further orders.

The reopening of cinemas in Maharashtra is extremely important not only because Bombay (which is a part of Maharashtra) is the nerve centre of Bollywood but also because it is feared that if cinemas in Maharashtra do not reopen soon, producers might not feel inclined to release their films as Maharashtra contributes around 20% of the domestic theatrical revenue of a film. Vashu Bhagnani had announced the release of his Bellbottom for 19th August in the hope that cinemas in Maharashtra would reopen by then. Despite the fact that the order for the reopening has not come so far, Bhagnani is going ahead with the scheduled release as he had already postponed the film once. It was first announced for release on 27th July.

If the release dates of more new films are not announced, a lot of cinemas in other states may not reopen in the coming days (in spite of permission to do so) because they would not have playing programmes in the ensuing weeks. Although there is a line-up of Hollywood films for the next 7-8 weeks, many of which are also dubbed in Hindi, the real moolah for cinemas all over India comes from Hindi films which are the staple diet. A handful of cities like Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore and the like ensure great collections for Hollywood films too but cinemas in 95% of the cities, towns and villages thrive on Hindi films.