West Bengal allows theatres to fully reopen

The Tamil Nadu government has rolled back its 100 capacity permission

MUMBAI: Even as the Tamil Nadu government has reversed its decision permitting 100 per cent occupancy in cinema halls following directions from the ministry of home affairs, it is now the turn of West Bengal to allow theatres to fully reopen. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee made the announcement while inaugurating the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival on Friday.

Her directive is to be notified by chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay and is against the central government’s unlock rules, which stipulate 50 per cent occupancy.

The move came a day after single-screen owners in West Bengal urged the state government to allow 100 per cent occupancy in theatres, citing poor box office returns as the reason.

Tamil Nadu had taken a similar decision earlier this week but had to withdraw it on receiving clear cut directions from home secretary Ajay Bhalla that the unlock restrictions must not, under any conditions, be diluted. The current set of unlock guidelines will be enforced till 31 January.

Soon after, the Tamil Nadu government issued a statement saying that the audience in all cinema theatres, including those in multiplexes and shopping malls, shall be capped at 50 per cent till further orders. The Madras high court had also stated that it believed that the state government should  reconsider its former decision of allowing 100 per cent  occupancy in cinema theatres in view of the Coronavirus situation in the state. It also said that it is not proper to give economic problems top priority when the nation is going through a pandemic.

Now it remains to be seen is if the home secretary will once again write to the West Bengal authorities and if the Centre’s rules will be followed. It must be recalled that the Tamil Nadu government led by the AIADMK is an ally of the BJP which has formed the Union government. The Trinamool Congress is in power in West Bengal and it is a bitter rival of the Narendra Modi-led BJP.

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