Indian multiplex shares surge as states set to unlock movie halls

Big-budget releases are set to hit the screens in the last three months of the year

  
Empty chairs are seen during a movie time at City Gold cinema after its reopening, amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India, October 15, 2020.

Empty chairs are seen during a movie time at City Gold cinema after its reopening, amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ahmedabad, India, October 15, 2020.

Reuters/Amit Dave

BENGALURU - Shares of India's top cinema chain operators, PVR Ltd and INOX Leisure , on Monday surged past their highest levels from pre-lockdown days after the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka took steps to reopen movie halls.

Home to multi-billion dollar Bollywood, Maharashtra is planning to open theatres and auditoriums after Oct. 22, while the southern state of Karnataka decided to allow full occupancy from Oct. 1 in districts with less than 1% positivity rate.

The reopenings coincide with India's festive season next month, when the big-budget films of the year are usually released and movie halls are booked to full.

Ever since the restrictions began, India's nearly 10,000 movie screens have only been able to operate in fits and starts, hampering the entire movie business from production to ticket sales.

However, as the country's daily rise in COVID-19 infections eases to 26,041 cases from 80,000 in June and daily vaccination picks up pace, hopes of a revival in movie business have gained ground.

Big-budget releases, including Ranveer Singh's sports film "83", Akshay Kumar's cop movie "Sooryavanshi" and international films "Eternals", "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and "The Matrix Resurrections" are set to hit the screens in the last three months of the year.

"Diwali... has done very well for Indian cinema, and with easing restrictions, things are beginning to look up," said Shailesh Kapoor, founder and chief executive of media consulting firm Ormax Media Private Ltd.

PVR Ltd rose as much as 10% and INOX Leisure jumped 18.43% to their highest since early March last year, days before the country went into a lockdown.

"Investors in PVR and INOX are positioned for recovery, the future will now be driven by fundamentals," said Harendra Kumar, managing director, Elara Securities, in Mumbai.

Occupancy rates, ticket pricing and content pipeline would be key for shares to eke out new records, he said.

(Additional reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur) ((Vishwadha.Chander@thomsonreuters.com; Mobile: +91 7506036802; Twitter: https://twitter.com/vishwadha;))


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