Business in the Gujarat territory may never be the same again, at least for the next couple of months. With a majority of people still trying to come to terms with the tragedy that changed their lives on January 26, entertainment just does not figure in the list of priorities right now. For the exhibitors, sub-distributors of Gujarat and distributors of Mumbai, it is yet another setback. A couple of weeks ago, it was the question of a no-release in February (post-KASOOR) that kept nagging their minds. Today, the situation has worsened. So where does that leave the Mumbai and Gujarat territory? Exhibitors and distributors voice their concern. SHYAM AHUJA (Mumbai distributor of KASOOR) "I don't think the audience in Gujarat is likely to respond to any film, howsoever good it may be, for the next few months. The earthquake has shattered even those in the unaffected areas. The areas where the business is worst hit are Ahmedabad, Morvi and Bhuj, besides Saurashtra. That's one of the reasons we released KASOOR at just four stations -- Baroda, Anand, Bharuch and Vapi. I have my doubts whether the business will be satisfactory at these stations. Considering that Gujarat comprises 50% of Mumbai territory, the overall business of Mumbai territory has taken a beating. Fortunately for me, the producers have been kind enough to work out an arrangement whereby I will not have to bear the brunt of the entire losses." TOLU BAJAJ (Mumbai distributor of AASHIQ) "The earthquake has not just affected business in Gujarat, it has drastically affected business in Mumbai city too. The tragedy has affected the psyche of the masses and they are in no mood to go to theatres at least for some time. In fact, AASHIQ was directly affected by the disaster since the film opened the day tragedy struck in Gujarat. We were counting upon the weekend holiday period to boost the box-office collections, which is why we had carefully chosen the day for the film's release. But it turned out to be doomsday for the people in Gujarat. I don't think the business in Gujarat will be restored for the next one year." DEVENDRA SHAH (Well-known Gujarat distributor) "It is futile to expect any business from the Gujarat territory for the next few months. From what I have been told, a majority of theatres are running empty even in the unaffected areas. Even the multiplexes, which were the talk of the town, are now running to empty halls. An exhibitor-friend recently told me that running his theatre had become a liability. Some exhibitors are now keeping their theatres closed for some time due to the poor attendance, so that they can at least save on the maintenance costs." MADHUBHAI PATANWALA (Mahavir Chitramandir, Ankleshwar and Kohinoor cinema, Patan) "Looking at the current state of affairs, it will not be surprising if several theatres in Gujarat close down in the next few months. The business at almost every centre, whether small or big, has been badly affected. Paying the compound tax to the government has now become a major burden for most of us. The theatre attendance is so poor that you can count the number of people sitting in the theatre. The 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. shows are the worst affected, since there is a fear psychosis among a majority of people, with tremors being experienced every now and then. Unless the government comes to the rescue of theatre owners and reduces the entertainment tax, a majority of theatres might be forced to close down."
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