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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Cinema halls to operate at 50 per cent capacity from October 15

Unlock 5.0 guidelines: The announcement of reopening of movie theaters has come as a relief to exhibitors and theater owners as cinema halls have been closed in the country since mid-March.

By: Entertainment Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 1, 2020 11:45:56 am
cinema halls to reopen, unlock 5 The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will soon issue SOP for reopening of cinema halls. (Photo: Express Archive)

Cinema halls across the country will reopen from October 15. According to Unlock 5.0 guidelines released by the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday, theaters will be permitted to open outside containment zones with up to 50% of their seating capacity, for which, SOP will soon be issued by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

The announcement has come as a relief to exhibitors and theater owners as cinema halls have been closed in the country since mid-March.

Reacting to the news, film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi, who has a chain of cinemas across Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, told indianexpress.com, “I could cry right! This is such big news for us. Finally, after months of dejection, we got this. Of course, now individual states have to decide but finally, the ball has got rolling. There’s some beginning. We now wait for the I&B Ministry to lay out the guidelines.”

The Multiplex Association of India (MAI) expressed their gratitude towards the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. In an official statement, it shared, “We are committed to ensure a safe, secure and hygienic cinema-going experience for the movie lovers of our country. As always, we would continue to assign top-most priority to the health and well-being of our guests and employees.”

The statement further read, “An urgent permission from the State Governments to reopen cinemas in their States would go a substantial distance in ensuring that the cinema exhibition sector is able to quickly recover from the dire economic and financial impact of the epidemic.”

PVR Cinemas CEO Kamal Gianchandani believes the opening of cinema halls will help in recovery from the economic impact of the pandemic. He wrote on Twitter, “Heartfelt gratitude to @HMOIndia @MIB_India for allowing cinemas to reopen October 15 onwards. Urge State Governments to allow reopening in their States, on urgent basis. Early opening will lead to a quick recovery from the dire economic impact of the epidemic.”

Senior distributor-exhibitor Raj Bansal, who is the director of a multiplex in Jaipur Entertainment Paradise, told indianexpress.com, “I am happy with this announcement. Maharashtra government, however, has announced lockdown till 31st October because Maharashtra and especially Mumbai is vulnerable. But cinemas can open in the rest of the country and I welcome this move of the home ministry. 50 per cent occupancy is a good number.”

PV Sunil, Managing Director, Carnival Cinemas, feels it is the right time to reopen theaters. “I would say this is the right time to open up with Diwali around the corner. 50 per cent capacity is better than what we had thought would be allowed earlier. It is in keeping with the norm of every other industry. Most of the countries are also following the same norm. As of now, our software is being modified in accordance with that so that the audience has a seamless experience while booking tickets online,” Sunil said in a statement.

He added, “For us to open up, there is a lot of work to be done. The good part is that separate teams handle each property and we also have two weeks, which seems sufficient time for us to prepare. As it is, we have planned for the reopening all this while, so there shouldn’t be a problem. While a couple of state governments are yet to give a go-ahead on the reopening of theaters, we are likely to open all the major properties in other states in the stipulated time. On the content side, the producers are already having conversations about releasing the films. In the first few weeks, there may not be an overflow of content but things would return to normalcy soon.”

Ashish Saksena, COO – Cinemas, BookMyShow, welcomed the government’s decision and mentioned how the move “will bring immense relief to scores of employees across the sector which has been one of the worst-hit in this pandemic.”

In an exclusive statement to indianexpress.com, Saksena shared, “We have been closely working with all our partners across the cinema industry to build measures for a safe and healthy movie viewing experience and are thrilled to welcome audiences back to silver screens. As the situation improves and with the festive season upon us, we are confident that films will return to the big screen, where they truly belong and the movie-watching experience will pick up in our country, yet again.”

However, Manoj Desai, the owner of Gaiety Galaxy and Maratha Mandir in Mumbai, is not happy with the restriction of opening theaters with only 50% of seating capacity. He said, “It is impossible to open with 50% occupancy. We have to do a lot of maintenance work. Also, the audience is so scared of the virus that they won’t even come in. Opening theaters in the situation where the state is still under lockdown is tricky. This needs better planning. This way, the theater owners will face even more losses.”

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