- Multiplexes, cinema halls were allowed only 50 per cent occupancy so far
- Wearing masks and thermal screenings are mandatory in theatres
- Show timings will be staggered and seats will be separated
Movie theatres across India will be allowed to function with 100 per cent occupancy from Monday, the government has announced in fresh guidelines as a part of the phased ease of restrictions of the coronavirus lockdown.
Multiplexes and cinema halls were allowed only 50 per cent occupancy so far to maintain social distancing and avoid crowds as the pandemic raged.
The nationwide vaccination drive is in progress with two vaccines - Covishield and Covaxin and over 37 lakh healthcare workers have been inoculated. Mutated and highly infectious strains of the virus from Britain and South Africa have also been posing a threat with 166 cases of the UK strain in India so far.
Good news for Cinema lovers:— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) January 31, 2021
Today, Issued the revised SOP for the film exhibition, 100% occupancy will be allowed in theatres from 1st February, but all @MoHFW_INDIA#COVID19 guidelines will have to be followed.https://t.co/5vfZtAoHXW@MIB_Indiapic.twitter.com/89qZpSiMhq
The move has been welcomed by many and comes as a relief to cinema halls that were closed for nearly seven months last year due to the pandemic. The number of coronavirus cases has also seen a decline in the past weeks as the Centre's decision comes into force.
Film critic and trade analyst Taran Adarsh shared the news on Instagram. He wrote: "BIGGG NEWS... 100% seating capacity allowed in cinemas/theatres/multiplexes. SOPs issued by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting."
The Producers Guild of India, a prominent film body, also welcomed the decision.
We welcome the decision of @MIB_India to allow 100% capacity in cinemas from February 1 and extend our sincere gratitude to Honourable @PrakashJavdekar ji and everyone involved in facilitating this important step in our industry's recovery— Producers Guild of India (@producers_guild) January 30, 2021
Columnist Sreedhar Pillai also tweeted: "After 100% occupancy in theatres, Bollywood is waking up from its deep slumber. Looking forward to Hindi star driven content to revive the theatrical. The multi-starrer Sooryavanshi & cricket based 1983 The Movie are due March end or April 2, as Ramadan period starts Apr 13/14."
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has however issued a set of SOPs for cinema halls to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
- Wearing masks, temperature checks and thermal screening are mandatory at the theatres.
- There will be staggered show timings and seats will be separated.
- Social distancing will be mandatory and hand sanitisers should be made available at the premises.
- Spitting shall be strictly prohibited.
- Contact numbers will be taken during booking of tickets to facilitate contact tracing.
- Number of people in elevators to be restricted; exit from the theatre should be in a staggered, row wise manner to prevent crowds.
- Digital payments will be encouraged.
- The theatre has to be sanitised after every screening; frequent sanitisation of common areas needs to ensured.
- Sanitisation staff to wear PPE kits for their safety.
- Safe disposal of food and beverage waste has to be ensured by the theatre.
- No movies can be screened in containment zones.
In the last set of guidelines released by the Centre just days ago, cinema halls were allowed to function at a higher capacity.
"Cinema halls and theatres have already been permitted upto 50% of seating capacity. Now they will be permitted to operate at higher seating capacity, for which a revised SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in consultation with MHA (the Ministry of Home Affairs)," it said in a release.
Cinema halls in several parts of the country started reopening from October, months in the shadow of the pandemic with 50 per cent occupancy. Even after reopening they have been struggling with low audience attendance and very few new film offerings.
Various big movies will now be able to open in theatres with a bigger audience which stalled their release due to the pandemic.