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Post-COVID INOX: Staggered intermissions, shorter menu, fewer shows

Post-COVID INOX: Staggered intermissions, shorter menu, fewer shows

By Jude Sannith  Apr 21, 2020 6:13:46 PM IST (Updated)

A couple of weeks before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and a little before the government announced a nationwide lockdown starting March 24, several multiplexes stopped screenings.

A couple of weeks before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and a little before the government announced a nationwide lockdown starting March 24, several multiplexes stopped screenings.

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A month in, and with coronavirus cases continuing to rise, there are indications that multiplexes will in all likelihood, be one of the last businesses to reopen. Multiplex major, INOX Leisure agrees. "There is going to be a big gap between when our screenings went off and our lights come back on,” said Alok Tandon, chief executive officer (CEO) of INOX, while speaking at a Retailers’ Association of India digital forum, on the future of mall retail.
F&B services & intermission timings to change
Tandon added that even when multiplexes reopen, patrons can expect a list of changes to business timings and food and beverage (F&B). “All operators will have to reduce their F&B menu and have to ensure that intermission timings are staggered,” he said, “We also have to ensure that the employee who prepares our food is COVID-free, and that cutlery is clean and hygiene standards are followed.”
Luckily for INOX, subtle architectural changes that it made before the COVID-19 pandemic might come to its aid while ensuring a safe movie experience, especially in the context of social distancing. “We will have to look at the entrance of the cinema hall to ensure social distancing,” said Tandon, “However, over a period of time our openings have become wider, so queuing is reduced at the entrance.” He also pointed out how lesser cramped cinemas with larger lobbies and bigger tier widths have gone some way in already ensuring adequate distance between patrons.
No night shows?
But these may not be the only changes INOX is looking to make in a post-COVID world. “We have been discussing internally, the possibility of shutting multiplexes by 11:00 PM or 11.30 PM in our first phase of reopening,” said Tandon, “We will hardly have any content to show and will have cost overheads like night shifts, which we must take into consideration.”
This simply means even after the government lets multiplexes reopen, there is a possibility that INOX, for one, won’t be running more than a single shift.
Multiplexes could be heading for rough weather
The changes aside, there’s also the risk of multiplexes running into stormy weather once they reopen, which in turn could impact mall retail as well. “F&B, cinema and entertainment will be the last to revive, and cinema will be the last of these categories to get back on track. On the other hand, segments like electronics, home and fitness equipment may recover faster,” said Ashwin Puri, director, Lakeshore India Advisory, “Cinema alone can contribute between 10 and 15 percent of the traffic to a mall.”
Tandon, however, acknowledged that the impact would only be short-lived. “For the first seven months, we will have to change how we do business,” he said, “But eventually, people will start coming back to our malls and multiplexes. People want to watch a movie on a large screen with high-quality sound.”
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