Movies
Report on Shemaroo

Cinemas allowed to operate at higher seating capacity

The new guidelines come into effect from 1 February.

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NEW DELHI: Cinema halls may have been allowed to roll back their curtains in October 2020 after a seven-month-long hiatus, but the gains the industry expected were sadly muted, as hardly any big ticket films came to the big screens and audiences also stayed away. The government-mandated 50 per cent occupancy, introduced to ensure the safety of moviegoers, instead acted as a deterrent for mega movie releases.

Today, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has issued a new order regarding Covid2019 protocols, further relaxing the cap on seating in multiplexes and allowing them to operate with higher capacity. Revised SOPs for cinema halls and theatres will soon be announced by the ministry of information and broadcasting, in consultation with the MHA, and the new guidelines will be effective 1 February onwards.

The news has lifted the sentiments of film distributors and theatre owners. Trade analysts expressed their approval of the move, saying it will act as a much-needed shot in the arm for the film exhibition business.

Industry experts stated that hiking the cap on seating to 75 per cent would be a boost for cinema, with filmmakers and distributors willing to bet more skin in the game, leading to release date announcements for big-budget Bollywood flicks.

Over the last couple of months, regional film industries, especially those in the south, have registered an uptick in cinema action. As viewer bases and loyal fans responded positively, they too rolled out the theatrical releases, with films like Master and Krack performing well even with a 50 per cent ceiling on occupancy. However, Hindi film fraternity has so far chosen to sit out, awaiting a pan-India reopening of cinema halls and revision in seating capacity limits. Several producers bypassed the big screen showing and released their movies directly to video streaming platforms.

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