Movie theatres across the country are starting to open their doors to the public. The idea of sitting in a cramped, closed space for around two hours, elbow-to-elbow with strangers seems like a nauseatingly concerning prospect amidst a pandemic. Many fear that an alleged second wave of Covid-19 is underway with situations expected to worsen in the winter months. However, since the government enforced shutdown has eased in the past few months, the country's economy has returned to business as usual. As a result, it was the only reasonable next step for cinema halls across Bangladesh.
Social media saw a heavy outpour of emotions surrounding Star Cineplex at Bashundhara City's decision to close its doors permanently to the public. Evidently, the people of Dhaka felt deeply about their relationship with the movie halls which showcased their favourite stories, actors and characters. For many of the young generation, it held the memories of their first experience of watching a film at a movie theatre. A city that is starved for viable avenues of entertainment, that place had become the obvious choice to celebrate birthdays or go for movies with close friends and large groups. Personally, I don't think I would have become a movie buff if I did not have countless memories of watching the latest releases there with my big family. Needless to say, I am pleased that Star Cineplex took note of their customers' devotion and decided to stay at Bashundhara City.
Across the globe, the film industry has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. However, just like many sectors of the economy have survived due to innovations with the help of technology, the film industry of different countries, too, has adjusted. Many films which were set to release in movie theatres have instead been moved to streaming websites. On the other hand, release dates of some movies like the new "James Bond" film have been pushed back. Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" is one of the only films released during this pandemic in a handful of theatres.
Sadly, in Bangladesh, major occasions like Pohela Boishakh, Eid-Ul-Fitr, Eid-Ul-Azha, in which the industry generally eyes big profit margins in the calendar year, have generated no income because of the Covid-19 crisis.
With the increase of Netflix and Amazon Prime subscribers, we saw a rise in the quality of and the investment behind TV shows across countless networks. Internationally acclaimed actors no longer restrict themselves to the world of the silver screen alone. However, arguably the place held by movie theatres in the film industry still contained great value. Although everyone likes to watch the latest release as and when their free time permits from the comfort of their beds and couches, any cinephile would assert that the experience of watching a film in the movie theatre remains unparalleled.
Everyone impacted by the pandemic has found coping mechanisms of their own. Most of us have turned to TV shows and movies to cope with the difficult times. Whether it was for old classics and feel-good movies or catching up with a show that all our friends have been raving about, streaming sites have been a blessing, to say the least. The film industry has leaned on streaming platforms like a crutch, but once there are fewer life threatening risks floating around, the movie theatre will be one of the most looked-forward-to places to visit for countless people.
As important as it is to maintain isolation amidst a pandemic, it is also vital for people's mental health that they interact with the outside world and socialise with adequate safety precautions. In a city like Dhaka, this can often feel like an impossible task when we step out of our house and see countless people without masks. This city is already starved for entertainment options, with the most popular being eating at an airconditioned restaurant or cafe. An ideal environment would be any outdoor space in which one can maintain the six-feet distance rule. As a movie buff, I hope that the movie theatre administration manages the seating plan with enough gaps between groups of customers to minimise risks.
For an introvert like me, going to the movie theatres is what I have missed the most throughout these months of isolation. There were many movies that were set to come out this year that I had been waiting for. "Black Widow" was set to release this year: I have been craving to watch a standalone movie of this character ever since I first saw her in "Iron Man 2" in 2010. If you do decide to go to the movie hall, all other rules remain the same - hand sanitiser at the ready, masks on and please don't touch anything, especially your face. While I am much too cautious to return to the theatres anytime soon, I patiently await the days when it is once again safe to watch my favourite storytellers' work on the big screen.