I was not scared that audience won’t step in cinema halls due to COVID-19, says John Abraham

PTI, Nov 24, 2021, 4:28 PM IST

Actor John Abraham on Wednesday said he looked at the shutdown of cinema halls during the pandemic as a time to ”recalibrate” as he knew that eventually audiences would gather faith and start going to theatres when they reopen.

Cinema halls remained shut for the most of 2020 and later, saw a phased reopening across the country. Maharashtra, a key centre for Hindi films, allowed theatres to reopen last month, leading to back-to-back film release announcements from the industry.

There was, however, a concern that a closed space like a cinema hall would not be safe for the audience, with critics observing that this would deter them from stepping into theatres.

When asked if he ever felt scared that the audience won’t turn up to watch films, Abraham said the pandemic had to be looked at with an opportunity to reset.

”I was not scared, I was practical. I knew it would take time. It is still in the process. If you ask me, if we are 100 per cent there, the answer is no. People are still in the process of putting their heads together and coming in. ”There was a practical recalibration in your head, as to how you want to produce a certain film, when are you going to go on floors… There was just recalibration, no fear. You have to deal with the present situation you are in,” Abraham told reporters here.

The actor was speaking at a special event of PVR, where the multiplex chain introduced an anti-viral cinema air purification system.

PVR, in partnership with UFO Moviez, announced the installation of a cinema-specific air sterilization device called ‘UFO-Wolf AirMask’. According to the multiplex chain, it will offer ”real-time air sterilization, providing protection against all kinds of harmful bacteria, viruses and microbes in the air and surfaces”.

Abraham, who is gearing up for the release of his latest actioner ”Satyameva Jayate 2” on Thursday, said the move will make the theatrical experience safe for audiences.

”The biggest fear we have when we enter a cinema hall is that it is dark, air conditioned and when you cough, everyone turns around. With this technology, you can dispel all those fears. To put it simply, this is extremely safe for people… ”The fun of watching a film happens at a cinema hall when you come out with your friends, family or by yourself. With this technology, you would know that if there is one place in the entire city you are safe, it is in a cinema hall now. Earlier you were scared here, but now you are safe here. So please dispel your fears,” he added. The event was attended by Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR; Kapil Agarwal, Joint Managing Director, UFO Moviez; and Sujesh Sugunan, Chairman & CEO, Allabout Innovations.

UFO Moviez is associated with Allabout Innovations Pvt Ltd, a technology fostering firm based out of Kochi, for distributing their product to theatres in India on an exclusive basis. ‘UFO-Wolf AirMask’ units will be installed across the country in all PVR screens and its upcoming properties.

Dutta said when cinema halls started to reopen, the team realised that the viewers had some ”ingrained fears” regarding the safety of stepping into a theatre. ”They had an ingrained fear, a few questions, is it (coming to a cinema hall) safe? However, we kept saying that we had double, triple ceiling heights, the government protocol of alternate seating, people said, ‘No, this isn’t enough.’ ”We needed a solution to go far beyond the government-set protocols… We really believe this will be a confidence booster for consumers to get back to cinemas,” he said.

According to Dutta, about 60 per cent of the entire circuit of PVR is already equipped with the new technology and by December 15, every auditorium — 855 across the country — will have the device installed. The device will also be installed in the lobbies and washrooms. On an average, there would be about 4.5 devices per auditorium. The devices come in three ranges, covering 1,000 sq ft, 500 sq ft and 250 sq ft area respectively. The device has been successfully tested on SARS COVID-2 VIRUS at Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Trivandrum, an ICMR recognised and ILAC Accredited Lab (International), which is especially designed for cinema halls, a note from PVR claimed.

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