The novel coronavirus has proved to be a huge blow to the entertainment industry of the country. And the film industry is one of the worst suffers, as all cinema halls across the country have been closed since March 18 this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ailing film industry had been going through a tough time for years. The pandemic is almost like the last nail in the coffin.
According to leaders of different organisations related to the industry, the film industry has suffered a loss of around Tk500 crore in the last four months.
Many people who are dependent on the industry and the cinema halls across the country have been forced to change their profession due to the pandemic.
The lion's share of the revenue of the cinema halls of the country comes during the three main festivals -- two Eids and the Pahela Baishakh.
Most big-budget films are released during these festivals. But this year, no new film has been released during the festivals as those were overshadowed by the pandemic.
"Though cinema halls have been closed, the owners have not gotten respite from paying rents, utility bills and salaries of employees. The total loss the industry has incurred amid the pandemic would be around Tk500 crore," said Shahidul Alam, general secretary of Bangladesh Film Producers and Distributors Association.
While talking to The Business Standard on Wednesday, he said, "Films are not the matter of heroes and heroines only. This is a huge collective task. Many people are involved with this. All of them are out of their jobs now."
"The authorities announced to restart shootings on June 5 but they have not started in a full swing as yet. Some shootings have been taking place on a limited scale with small units. In this situation, the jobless workers of the industry have been living a measurable life," he added.
Shahidul Alam said, "Many producers and directors stopped shooting in the middle of their projects because of Covid-19. As a result, production costs are increasing. Many films are waiting to get released after attaining sensor certificates. Their investment is stuck there."
Mia Alauddin, vice-president of Bangladesh Film Exhibitors Association, said, "Many employees of cinema halls have lost their jobs amid the pandemic. The owners had been running the halls conceding losses. But now they are providing money from their pockets to bear all the expenses. How long will it be possible?"
According to data provided by Bangladesh Film Exhibitors Association, in normal times around 70 cinema halls exhibit films across the country. But in times of festivals, around 150 cinema halls exhibit films.
Mia Alauddin said, "The hall owners of the country have been counting a daily loss of Tk17 lakh during the pandemic."
Iftekhar Uddin Nawshad, owner of Modhumita hall and a leader of Cinema Hall Owners Association, said, "I was bearing the expense of the hall with the rent that I got from other units of the building. But I stopped collecting the rent amid the pandemic on humanitarian grounds. I have no idea what will happen in the future."
The multiplexes of the country have also been suffering huge losses due to the pandemic.
Mahbub Rahman Ruhel, chairman of Star Cineplex, said, "Every month I have to pay an expense of Tk2.5 crore including employees' salaries and hall rents for three branches. I have provided three months of salaries for the employees. I also have bank loans."
Several big budget films including Arefin Shuvo's "Mission Extreme", Shakib Khan's "Bidrohee", Siam Ahmed's "Shaan", and Yash Rohan's "Poran" were waiting to be released on Eid-ul-Fitr. Many medium-budget films were also ready to be released if the situation were normal.
Khorshed Alam, president of Bangladesh Film Producers and Distributors Association, said, "The money of the producers of these films have been stuck. It is not sure if the money will be back even these films are released after the pandemic."
Television dramas trying to recover the damage
Meanwhile, shootings of television dramas of the country had been stopped from March 22 to May 30 this year because of Covid-19. Television channels, therefore, had to pass the festivals like Pahela Baishak and Eid-ul-Fitr broadcasting mostly old dramas. Though there were some new dramas as well.
Shootings of new dramas resumed on June 1. As a result, the television channels will get new dramas for Eid-ul-Adha.
Tarek Akand, head of programme of Banglavision, said, "We conceded huge losses during Eid-ul-Fitr. The volume of losses will be less during Eid-ul-Adha. We hope we will find some stability now."
Many people related to the television industry expressed their hope for a satisfying business during Eid-ul-Adha.
The marketing head of a private channel said on condition of anonymity, "This Eid, the business will not be like that of the previous year. But we are hoping for a satisfying business. But it will take time to recover the losses we have already incurred."