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Cinegoers divided over watching movies as cinema halls gear up to open amid COVID-19’s new normal

The decision to reopen cinema halls has been welcomed by theatre owners and exhibitors who are all charged up to be back in the business after a lull period of seven months.

By: PTI | Mumbai |
October 8, 2020 12:23:21 pm
cinema halls openCinema halls in many parts of the country are set to resume operations from October 15. (Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

The excitement of returning to watch films on the big screen might lure some audience members to theatres as they open next week, but many are still sceptical about venturing out as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on in the country.

Last week, the Centre gave its nod to reopen cinemas from October 15 with stringent dos and don’ts. However, not all state governments will follow this immediately owing to the pandemic scenario in their respective regions.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had announced the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that cinema halls must adhere to including one seat distance in theatres, 50 per cent capacity, masks all the time, proper ventilation and air conditioner temperature settings not above 23 degree Celsius.

The decision has been welcomed by theatre owners and exhibitors who are all charged up to be back in the business after a lull period of seven months.

Also Read | Theatres get ready to abide by govt SOPs but no new movies, at least for now

However, the owners have indicated it is unlikely to show fresh content as no new films are scheduled to release soon. In fact, the owners are relying on old yet memorable films to bring viewers back to cinema halls. But people are divided about watching the film on the 70 mm screen.

Khushboo Shah, a homemaker from Indore, said she and her family have been eagerly waiting to watch a movie in a theatre. With proper hygiene and safety protocols in place, they are planning for a day-out, she added. “We terribly miss going to theatres. It has been more than seven months we haven’t seen any movie. The last film we had seen was ‘Baaghi 3’, we couldn’t watch ‘Angrezi Medium’. There is a joy in watching a movie on the big screen, having popcorn, samosa and enjoying the time with your family, getting lost in that world. We will definitely go to watch a film after a week or 15 days. We hope to not think about coronavirus for those two hours,” Shah told PTI. She is hoping for Akshay Kumar-starrer “Sooryavanshi” to release soon.

Also Read | Delhi govt allows reopening of cinemas, theatres with 50 pc seating capacity from Oct 15

Given the safety guidelines, Sidharth Sharma said he is looking forward to experience a big-scale spectacle in a movie hall. The Delhi-based professional said though he had OTT platforms to keep him entertained, filling the void left by theatres is too big a task for the streaming services. “I am truly interested in watching a big-scale action movie simply because of the experience, VFX, action pieces. Like ‘Tenet’, it’s something which I was eagerly looking forward to watch. A Christopher Nolan film has to be consumed on the big screen. There’s no other way,” Sharma told PTI.

Photographer Yashank Chopra, who is “unsure” about the level of safety measures in cinema halls, said he is no hurry to head out anytime soon. “I won’t go out for a movie yet. Firstly, I’m sceptical about the preventive measures being taken and followed in theatres. And, secondly, watching a movie is way down on my priority list,” he added.

Evan Joseph, a student from Bengaluru, also said that risking her life to watch a film in a cinema hall isn’t worth it. “There are guidelines, safety precaution promises but there is still a high risk of being in close proximity to people. In case I really want to watch a film on the big screen, I’d go for an action thriller or a romantic comedy or something like ’83’ or ‘Black Widow’. But then again, I don’t think I would risk going to a cinema hall at this point,” she told PTI.

Also Read | Cinema halls to open from October 15: What are the new rules, SOPs?

Like Joseph, Hyderabad-based budding filmmaker Raj Jaiswal too is not keen on venturing out to watch a movie during the COVID-19 era. “It is still unsafe to go out, given there will be a lot of people around. The cases are shooting up everyday, the numbers should have come down. I prefer watching films on OTT. For me it is about watching great content. There is so much interesting stuff to watch here,” Jaiswal told PTI.

Chartered accountant Ruchita Shah said during the nationwide lockdown, she had subscribed almost all the leading OTT platforms. “I am happy watching what I want on OTT in my safe and comfort zone,” Shah said.

As a cinephile, watching Christopher Nolan’s espionage thriller Tenet in a theatre is a no-brainer for Varun Bansal, who said it is risk he is “willing to take”. But the logistics professional said he will draw the line here and wait for other titles to arrive on OTT platforms.

“I’m looking forward to the day when ‘Tenet’ is theatrically released in India. I would rather wait for other movies to be available on streaming platforms,” Bansal told PTI.

Also Read | Face masks, sharing contact info for tracing, only half seats occupied: I&B Ministry’s SOPs for cinema halls

Mumbai-based radio jockey Saif Ali Momin said while he is tempted to watch films on celluloid and “might possibly do so” when theatres open up in Maharashtra, it won’t be a hassle-free situation.  “I want to watch films in cinema halls but I am not completely satisfied with the safety precautions. I don’t understand alternate seating and how that’s really going to help. And if that is implemented, I’m sure it would lead to increased tickets rates, especially in multiplexes. How many sanitisers will be provided and how many times can seats be sanitised?” he asked. For starters, Momin said, he would first try going to watch a film alone to check how safety measures are being followed before planning to take his family along.

“I am interested but also worried. I’ll first experience it myself before going with my family,” he said.

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