Unlock Phase 1: The future of malls and movie theatres  

Shopping malls will start its operation in phases as per the prescribed guidelines. Resumption or restoration of normal footfalls is solely dependent on containment of COVID-19 virus

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us all together at an unique never seen before juncture. With the "new normal" being social distancing and unprecedented hygiene protocols, the way we watch movies and spend our time at the shopping malls, is set to change forever.

Among the most affected sectors of the economy in the times of the pandemic have been the movie theatres and shopping malls. With zero footfall, paucity of cashflow, the industry looks at resilience during diffcult times. The ongoing economic slowdown, made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, is set to cull Indian media and the entertainment industry's revenue by 16 percent - or Rs 25,000 crore - to Rs 1.3 lakh crore this fiscal, said a report by Crisil in March this year.

"The COVID pandemic has left a massive impact on the cinema exhibition industry, not just in our country, but across the globe. Operations are shut, movie releases are getting deferred, and therefore inflow of cash has entirely stopped. The industry has faced various crises in its history, but what it is going through currently could not be envisaged at any point, but at the same time, we are certain that the cinema exhibition sector would script a remarkable turnaround, as we know that we are backed by the unshakeable passion of the Indian cinema lovers," says Alok Tandon, CEO - INOX Leisure Ltd.

With Unlock Phase 1 expected to start from the the first of June, expect to see more relaxations; the states, however, are united in their push to continue with curbs of inter-state transportation, malls and cinema halls, educational institutions and places of worship. There is no go ahead for cinema halls in the coming weeks, but Malls are set to see some footfall from 8, June as they get the clearance to open their doors to customers.

"To begin with, the malls will start its operation in phases as per the prescribed guidelines. Resumption or restoration of normal footfalls is solely dependent on containment of Covid-19 virus. Going forward, if zero cases are reported from the city, state and country, the footfalls will get restored in no time. The gradual opening-up of the multiplex and dine-in restaurants and cafes will further help in driving footfalls and trading," maintains Manoj K. Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, Viviana Mall, Thane.

"We have been preparing ourselves well over for the past two months and are geared up to open our malls, as per the government directives. We will be instituting temperature checks at all entrances and setting up protocols for maintaining social distancing such as a safe distance of minimum 1 meter from other customers and staff, not more than 3-4 customers being allowed to enter the elevator at a time (however, no of passengers will be determined depending upon the size of elevator like in DLF Cyberhub our lifts will work for 2 pax at a time due to size constraint), for escalators one customer will be allowed after 3 steps roll over, permanent distance markers will be placed in the lifts, so people don't exceed the required capacity," Pushpa Bector, Executive Director, DLF Shopping Malls.

The industry is in line with the "new normal" post pandemic

"Cinemas have seen through a lot of difficult phases in its history, and at every instance, have emerged smarter and stronger. We are looking at the post COVID-19 phase as another evolution with new processes and protocols, and we are sure that we will take it into our stride. We have used the lockdown phase to determine various scenarios and work out robust plans for ensuring hygiene as well as distancing," states Tandon.

Adding, "We will remain completely respectful towards the concerns of our guests, and also understand that their faith and confidence in our preparedness on preventive measures will play a key role towards the same. We are looking at the "new normal" soon going back to the "old normal" which resembles gangs of friends and families turning up in huge numbers, heavy hustle and bustle in the lobbies, and the loud cheers in the auditoriums."

Some of the key measures to be adopted are as follows:

Hygiene-related measures

Encourage paperless transactions for ticket booking and food ordering

Check temperature of all employees, service partners and guests with non-invasive Thermo-Guns as they enter our premises.

Sanitizers stations at all the key locations and common areas.

Following rigorous cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

Areas with higher public exposure would be sanitized on an hourly basis.

Auditoriums would be sanitized after every show.

All surfaces in and around the food service areas will be disinfected regularly.

Deep cleaning of auditoriums would be carried out every day.

The teams would be asked to wear gloves and masks and will be asked to wash hands regularly.

Use of single use disposable packaging for F&B services.

PPE kits available for purchases, which would include a mask, a pair of gloves and a bottle of sanitizer

Social distancing measures

Following distancing between the guests at the entrance using demarcations

Ensuring physical distancing, we will allot seats in a way that adjacent seats are left vacant for a group or a family.

Online booking modes will be programmed to allocate seats in that order.

Movie shows will be scheduled in such a manner, that entry, intermissions and exits to two shows do not occur simultaneously, and we avoid crowding of lobbies and restrooms.

With a few big-ticket releases already opting for premiers on the OTT platforms, what challenges are movie theatres facing in the current scenario?

"First of all, we want everyone to understand that this is not a Multiplex Vs OTT scenario. All we expect the content creators to do is to release their content in theatres, followed by digital platforms, like it has been happening so far in line with the globally prevalent windowing pattern. Every phase in the cinema value chain has its own significance, and with the theatrical/ cinema hall phase being the most value-generating phase, we expect the windowing pattern to be followed. Towards this, the Multiplex Association Of India had come out with an appeal to the content creators. We had also urged the producers and studios to wait for the theatres to resume operations and follow the globally prevalent cinematic windowing pattern as it has done wonders in terms of revenues for the content creators and other stakeholders, as it offers the creators an opportunity to extract the best from all available mediums," opines Alok Tandon.

What the coming few months look like for the multiplex industry

"Cinemas, since inception, have been the biggest contributors to the 'experience economy' for the past 100 years, and will continue to do so forever. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has challenged the passion for cinema which is prevalent in our country. Cinema-lovers have remained under-served on entertainment for this period, and we know that they are yearning to step out, socialise and get entertained via their favorite entertainment medium, which is cinemas. We have complete faith that the same age-old passion of the movie lovers will make them come out in huge numbers and throng cinemas. We are also sure that the signature INOX experience would come to the fore and continue to delight our patrons across the country," Tandon rounds up.

The Tale of the Retail: Winning the confidence from the shoppers

"To mitigate the disruption caused by this crisis, retailers will need to devise strategies for the "now", "next" and "beyond". While they need to manage their costs through operational improvement and by evaluating the store portfolio, they also invest in service, experience, and omni-channel to serve the new consumer. As retailers react to fluidity of the "now" they also need to build resilience for the "next" when demand starts getting restored and think "beyond". They should map a strategic journey to financial resilience at the same time plan for longer-term implications on their operating model owing to shift in external environment. Speed and agility will be key levers of success and retailers will need to adopt a FASTER approach both to navigate the crisis 'now' and to plan for the 'next' and 'beyond'," says report by EY India.

Bector states, "We have strong relationships with our retail partners and we are assessing the situation in real time and responding to the requests that we have received by engaging with them individually. We will work with them to come to an appropriate solution which is of mutual interest and sustainable in the long term. What matters most now is to reflect on these new changes and plan ahead - so that we all can make a successful comeback."

Adding, "Our focus will now be on consumer safety and providing them the best experience of shopping in the mall. We have been working closely with our retail partners and the industry at large and have drafted SOP's which include every minute details for sanitization such as door handles, wheelchairs, benches, carts etc. along with placement of sanitizer stations across all our malls. We are also embracing in technology for providing real time foot traffic, real time notifications on safety and cleanliness, booking of time slots, golden hours to visit our malls which our consumers can experience very soon on DLF Malls 'Lukout' APP."

"What we foresee, fashion and F&B will open in a limited way. Movie halls and children entertainment will open later. We are initially looking at re-opening the mall between 12:00 pm - 9 pm so that consumers feel safe to come in during that time. Our consumer research tells us that consumers now will come to the malls with the purpose and decision to shop or eat. We will attract serious shoppers to the malls. And hence, our efforts will be to win our consumers' confidence and bring them back to our malls", suggests Pushpa Bector.

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