Reviving the entertainment industry | Daily News


Reviving the entertainment industry

With almost all sectors and activity reopening for business after receiving the green light vis-a-vis the Coronavirus pandemic steps are also being taken for the revival of the entertainment industry which sustains a large number of individuals and families. Thus all cinema fans and the cinema industry – both theatre operators and film makers - will welcome the Government’s move to permit the opening of cinemas from June 27. While no exact date was mentioned, drama halls and concert halls/open air concerts are also likely to be given the green light.

The authorities have specified strict health guidelines for the cinemas, which will have to be disinfected before opening. Social distancing will also come into play, which means that only half or slightly more of the actual capacity of the cinemas could be utilized.

In that case all cinemas in the country will have to redesign their theaters to fall in line with the present social distancing rule and even perhaps ban courting couples from attending film shows. This will pose a dilemma to the operators, who will have to bear some losses from the empty seats on top of the loss they had sustained for nearly three months. The public, on the other hand, will be in no mood to pay even higher prices for admission, having themselves faced a myriad of problems as a result of the pandemic. The authorities will have to address both these concerns and find a balance that is fair by both cinemagoers and exhibitors. Besides, if the social distancing rule is to be applied across the board there will be no room for on-screen romance which itself will turn away audiences. We hope that social distancing rules will not apply to the films themselves, though many productions here and abroad have been postponed owing to the pandemic.

Fears have been expressed that viruses can freely circulate in air-conditioned venues, though the jury is still out on that one. It just happens that most of the cinemas and drama halls are air-conditioned. One solution is to get cinema hall operators to switch off the ACs. But in the absence of fans and any type of open air ventilation in some enclosed multiplex theaters, it is doubtful whether the AC can be switched off. Besides, who wants to pay Rs.500 or more to watch a movie in the stifling heat ? These are problems that have to be addressed before long.

It is also time to address the larger issues facing the cinema industry. It is no secret that the local cinema is today faltering not just due to the advent of television but also due to the poor quality of films being dished out. More high quality films are needed for the industry to survive. This does not mean that only art house films should be produced – good quality commercial films can be made, as seen in the heyday of Sinhala cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. Sadly, most of the new commercial Sinhala films are of very low quality. This trend should be reversed if the exhibitors and the cinema industry are keen to get more patrons unto the film halls.

The authorities should also do well to rescan, restore and re-screen in theatres some of these old gems from the Sinhala movie repertoire. We have done very poorly in terms of preserving our film heritage and it has been suggested that a foreign label such as Criterion be approached for restoration and reissuing Sinhala movie classics such as Nidhanaya and Gamperaliya on DVD and Blu-Ray with multi-language subtitles.

Sports too are having limited opportunities. So far, there is no word on whether some of the big sports can go ahead in stadiums devoid of fans, as is being done in the Bundesliga in Germany and the English Premier League. That still does not take into account the fact that some of the sports have plenty of body contact. This is a problem for the health and sports authorities to solve.

The same goes for concerts, which are usually overnight affairs jam packed with people. At least one “drive-in” open air concert was held during the pandemic curfew period, at the Colombo Airport in Ratmalana, where the spectators were asked to remain in their cars and enjoy the music. However, this will not always be possible. Most musicians depend on these so-called “musical shows” to make a living, so a solution to their woes should be found soon.

Most people do not see it this way, but the entertainment industry is one of the prime components of the economy. Every time someone buys a movie or drama ticket, the State also earns revenue. Thus the State and the public have a greater stake in the industry than we think. The sooner these industries return to normality, even under the”New Normal”, the better it will be for all involved.

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