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Staggered Show Timings, 50% Seating Capacity: Guidelines for Reopening of Cinema Halls Announced

A file photo shows employees in PPE suits sanitising a cinema hall in New Delhi. (AFP)

A file photo shows employees in PPE suits sanitising a cinema hall in New Delhi. (AFP)

The rules state that cinemas/theatres/multiplexes will not be allowed to open in containment zones, and where they reopen, occupancy should not be more than 50 percent of their total seating capacity.

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Pallavi Ghosh

The show must go on. With this mantra, the central government on Tuesday released the detailed guidelines for the reopening of cinema halls from October 15, six months after the coronavirus pandemic brought the curtains down.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting released the standard operating procedure for exhibition of films in cinema halls and multiplexes. The guidelines are in line with the Unlock 5.0 rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19 while restarting businesses.

The rules state that cinemas/theatres/multiplexes will not be allowed to open in containment zones, and where they reopen, occupancy should not be more than 50 percent of their total seating capacity.

SAFETY PROTOCOLS

The guidelines also emphasise on strict safety protocols such as maintaining physical distancing of at least six feet, mandatory usage of face covers/masks and making hand sanitizers available for customers.

Seating arrangement inside the auditorium must be in a way that adequate physical distancing is maintained. Seats that are “not to be occupied” shall be marked accordingly during booking.

Staggered show timings shall be followed for multiple screens to avoid crowding, the ministry said. The auditorium will have to be sanitised after every screening.

TICKET BOOKING AND PAYMENTS

The SOP suggests that digital no-contact transactions should be the “most preferred” mode for issuing, verification and payments for tickets, food and beverages. Contact number would be saved while booking the tickets to facilitate contact tracing.

FOOD AND BEVERAGES

The management will have to ensure that show timings are staggered in a way that intervals of different shows do not occur simultaneously.

Only packaged food and beverages shall be allowed. Multiple counters for their sale should be made available wherever possible. Delivery of food and beverage inside the hall shall be prohibited, the ministry said.

CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC

The Hindi film industry alone is staring at a loss of Rs 2,000 crore because of the pandemic and it could feel the Covid-19 impact for another two years due to delays in film shoots and releases. Several delegations of the Indian film industry have been meeting the Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javedekar to find a way to reopen the cinema halls.

The film industry is a huge employment provider and the closures of cinema halls had led to layoffs as production houses could not bear the costs of salaries. Adding to this was the immense growth in OTT platforms which have eaten into the revenues and the worry remains that viewers may change their viewing habits and may still prefer to watch movies at home. It’s these factors which made the government agree to opening of cinema halls.

The move has been welcomed by producers and actors, but the film fraternity remains cautiously optimistic. While all welcome the move, they say they are aware that people may still be reluctant to come to movies halls because of the high numbers of cases.

And with these restrictions and only 50 per cent filling up allowed inside theatres, the costs may not add up and the film industry is bracing for a loss. But then, the industry feels something is better than nothing. It only adds pressure on the producers to cut costs, restrict overheads and ensure that profit margin are increased.


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