The Covid-19 health crisis has disrupted all aspects of life and even as the situation shows some signs of improvement, several sectors still face an uphill battle for their survival.
Shuttered by the pandemic since March, theatres across Punjab are now dealing with the indelible impact of Covid-19. According to details gathered by the Express Tribune, theatres have lost millions since they were forced to close five months ago.
While the government has allowed theatres to open their doors once again, the decision comes with a long list of conditions. Theatres, like cinemas, will be required to follow all Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
As per the instructions issued by the government, theatres and cinemas will be required to limit the number of seats in the hall and ensure there is enough spacing to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
“If a hall has a seating capacity of 500 people, it will only be allowed to enter 250 for each show,” said one theatre owner. No one, he said, will be allowed to enter the halls without a face mask. “Theatres will also be required to provide hand sanitizers,” he said.
Commenting on the situation, Chairman Theater Action Committee Qaiser Sanaullah Khan said: “We are following all SOPs.” Everyone, Khan said, is screened at the point of entry.
“The coronavirus has reduced the theatres and cinemas to haunted halls,” said one Lahore-based theatre owner.
Another theatre owner expressed concerns about the plummeting revenue. “Artists are earning significantly less now than they did before the health crisis,” he claimed.
On the other hand, Khan said, those who have rented theatres have been seriously affected by the health crisis. “For them, it is difficult to pay the rent during this time,” he added.
About the future of theatres in Punjab, Khan cautioned, “It looks bleak.”
“At a time when cinemas are closing down, theatres may face difficult times ahead,” he added.
Khan said the entire sector would need a financial lifeline to survive. “The government should consider providing financial support to the industry,” he said.
He warned theatres across Punjab are facing a serious crisis and may even close indefinitely. “Without support from the government, it seems almost impossible to wade through the crisis,” said another theatre owner.
On the verge of closing, theatres across the province are still struggling to produce new shows. However, there are reservations about the restrictions imposed by the government on the duration of each show.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2020.