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After a long wait, cinema halls set to open with 100% seating capacity

This brings cheer to the film industry which has incurred huge losses due to Covid restrictions.

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NEW DELHI: After incurring huge losses due to a prolonged lockdown, cinema halls across the country are finally ready to open the doors to viewers and have a chance to draw a full house. The Ministry of information and broadcasting late on Saturday gave its go ahead and released a fresh set of standard operating procedures (SOP) for film theatres to open with 100 per cent seating capacity, starting 1 February.

The decision has come as a big relief to the film distributors who have been bearing the brunt of the Covid2019 restrictions. In October, the government had allowed them to operate with only up to 50 per cent of their seating capacity, after remaining shut for over seven months.

"It is an extremely positive move and a big shot in the arm of the film entertainment sector. This has come in a timely fashion a lot of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam films are being lined up for release in February. This move will help a lot of these films,” PVR Pictures chief executive officer Kamal Gianchandani told PTI.

Distributors hope that this decision will also inspire confidence among Hindi film producers to release their films in theatres and announce the release dates soon. Many big ticket Hindi films are due for release in the coming months, which include India’s cricket World Cup victory tale ’83, Salman Khan’s Radhe and the Rohit Shetty directorial Sooryavanshi, which was initially expected to hit the big screen in March 2020.

“We welcome the decision of MIB India to allow 100 per cent capacity in cinemas from 1 February and extend our sincere gratitude to Prakash Javadekar ji and everyone involved in facilitating this important step in our industry’s recovery,” the Producers Guild of India tweeted. 

The government has also made clear that all theatres will be required to take adequate precautionary measures to prevent the spread of Covid2019. Also, no exhibition of film will be allowed in containment zones. Further, governments of states and union territories can take additional measures, depending on the situation in their areas.

Early this month, the Tamil Nadu government had decided to open cinema halls to 100 per cent capacity, but had to reverse the decision, following recommendations from the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to adhere to the lockdown.

In the new SOPs released on Saturday, the MIB stated that people will need to maintain adequate physical distancing of at least six feet outside the auditoriums and waiting areas at all times. Everyone will be required to wear masks or face covers.

Hand sanitisers should be kept at all the entry-exit points and thermal screening should be carried out. The guidelines also require the cinema owners to ensure there is no crowding and entry and exits are done in a staggered manner and viewers are encouraged to avoid movement during intermissions. It also recommends staggered show timings for multiple screens, push for digital no-contact transactions and also taking contact numbers of viewers while booking tickets to enable contact tracing.

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