They demand government to introduce special incentives to bail this industry out of COVID-19 crisis
KATHMANDU, Sept 26: The cinema halls are set to resume its operation from October 7. Although the Kathmandu District Administration Office (DAO) earlier decided to allow cinema halls to operate with a maximum of 50 percent occupancy, Nepal Film Association had decided to open the cinema halls only if they are allowed to operate with 100 percent capacity across the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every sector across the country. Tourism industry, entertainment industry and aviation and transportation services are among the sectors that are worst hit by the pandemic.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of Team Quest, Roshan Adiga, Nepali cinema halls have incurred huge financial losses in the past two years due to COVID-19 pandemic. “Financial burden is very huge on us. Despite the pandemic, we supported our employee for six to eight months. But unfortunately we had to let them go later as the pandemic showed no sign of receding,” said Adiga.
“We hope that the government will provide tax exemption for the entertainment industry as an interim relief. This will help us to recover the loss we incurred during the pandemic,” he added.
According to Chairman of Federation of Nepal Film Entrepreneurs Madhu Sudhan Pradhan, cinema halls are all set to resume their operation. “We have made all necessary preparations to resume operation of the cinema halls. Of course, the health safety of the audience is our main priority,” he said. “To avoid physical contact, there will be online booking and QR code scanning facilities available to them. Also, the halls will be sanitized properly and all the necessary precautionary measures will be taken.”
Almost every sector in Nepal has started resuming their operation. From crowds in public vehicles to celebration of various jatras, the daily life of people has already returned to normalcy.
Chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku Dr Sher Bahadur Pun said that 50 or 100 percent occupancy does not matter but what matters the most is the focus on safety measures. “Everyone knows what preventive measures they should follow to avoid COVID-19 infection. Proper social distance should be maintained even while buying popcorn or using washrooms,” he said. “The audience should watch the movie in silence and go home directly.”
Sajal Lopchan, 28, freelance filmmaker is excited about the re-opening of cinema halls in Nepal. “As an audience, masks and sanitizer are the key preventive measures for me. I expect cinema halls to conduct temperature checks, make sanitizer available and make it mandatory for all including employees and audience to wear masks.”
Roshan Sainju, 23 of Bhaktapur is equally happy about the preparation to reopen the cinema halls. “I was waiting for Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to be released. However, it is now quite late for that movie. But I am looking forward to watching Venom 2, Dune and other Hollywood movies,” he said. “I hope the movie distributors bring all the popular movies in the cinema halls.”
Executive Director of Apple Entertainment Jenish Pahari said they will definitely bring all the movies if the audience is willing to visit cinema halls. “As people are getting vaccinated, it is a lot safer than before. If the audience is willing to go to the cinema halls, we will definitely bring the movies of their choice,” she said “For now, we have brought Fast and Furious 9 and No Time to Die.”
Earlier, various Nepali movies chose OTT platforms to release their movie as cinema halls were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the movies to release on OTT platform was Mata Marchu Ki Kya Ho directed by comedian couple Sitaram Kattel and Kunjana Ghimire.
According to Kattel, there is a huge difference between releasing the movie in a cinema hall and an OTT platform. “We used to have huge audience in cinema halls but as most of the Nepali audience does not know a lot about OTT platform, we had less audience for our movie,” he said. “However, Mata Marchu Ki Kya Ho was made for OTT platform.”
Kattel also said that the government should prioritize the entertainment sector as this sector is already on the verge of collapse due to the pandemic. “Both cinema halls operators and filmmakers are at a huge financial loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have invested millions of rupees in filmmaking. In case we incur loss, we will be in huge debt, and we can’t even support our basic livelihood. So, the government should give priority to the entertainment sector to bail them out of the current crisis,” he added.