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Cinema halls allowed to operate at 50% capacity from 15 October

The worst-affected state of Maharashtra will, however, continue its lockdown till midnight on 31 October, with cinema halls remaining closed till then.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Image for representational purposes only

Our Correspondent

The Union home ministry has decreed that cinema halls and theatres can reopen and function at 50% capacity after 15 October.

The order, which comes as part of the Unlock 5.0 process, also states that the standard operating procedures must be followed to keep the public safe. 

The new guidelines, issued yesterday, also allow recreational facilities, parks and entertainment grounds to function with limited capacity.

However, the order excludes the state of Maharashtra, which has extended its lockdown till the end of October. The state has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and the highest mortality rate in the country.

The order comes five months after the lockdown was initiated. Since then, several major films have been released on OTT platforms, putting single-screen theatres at risk.

The Multiplex Association of India issued a statement welcoming the decision. It said, 'Millions of movie lovers, employees of the cinema exhibition sector, along with the entire film industry were eagerly awaiting this announcement. We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the ministry of home affairs and the ministry of information & broadcasting for their support and guidance.'

Promising that multiplexes would assign 'topmost priority to the health and well-being of our guests and employees', the association said, 'An urgent permission from the state governments to reopen cinemas in their states would go a substantial distance in ensuring that the cinema exhibition sector is able to quickly recover from the dire economic and financial impact of the epidemic.'

The partial reopening of theatres has also been welcomed by the film industry. Actor Abhishek Bachchan termed the order the best news of the week.

Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-president, films and events, at Saregama India Ltd, said, "We welcome the decision of the ministry of home affairs to allow cinema halls to reopen across the country with 50% seating from October 15. The film industry has seen extremely challenging times as has every sector of the economy.  I am sure this would translate into a surge of optimism for the millions of people associated directly and indirectly with the industry. It is time to adapt and move forward and accept the new normal. Together, we have to fight this."

Producer Anand Pandit, whose latest film The Big Bull is almost complete, termed the decision a strong step in the right direction. "I have always maintained that there is no substitute for the theatrical experience. If there is one thing the film industry has, it is resilience and we will overcome the challenges with unity and by looking out for each other,” he said.

He added that it was critical to follow safety protocols. "Whether it is frequent sanitisation or the absolute necessity for masks, we must ensure, as responsible stakeholders, that we do not take any chances," he said.

The decision opens the door for two of the year's biggest Hindi films, 83 and Sooryavanshi, which were scheduled to be released earlier this year and had to be postponed because of the pandemic-induced lockdown.

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Coronavirus Indian cinema