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Theatres have been permitted to restart ops from 15 October.
Theatres have been permitted to restart ops from 15 October.

Govt sets SOPs for cinemas

  • There is uncertainty as cinema is a state subject, which means individual states take the call on reopening

The government on Tuesday issued a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) along expected lines for the reopening of cinemas, but lingering corona fears and a dreary landscape of new offerings could keep audiences at bay.

Theatres have been permitted to restart operations from 15 October but there is uncertainty because cinema is a state subject, which means individual states take the call on reopening.

As of now, Delhi and Maharashtra, which account for half the country’s movie audience, have said cinemas will remain shut. Permission has come from West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Bihar, Gujarat, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Puducherry and Chhattisgarh.

The SOPs issued by the information and broadcasting ministry make it mandatory for cinemas to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet outside auditoriums, use of face masks at all times, availability of hand sanitizers at entry and exits and installation of the Aarogya Setu contact tracing app.

Thermal screening of visitors and staff will be carried out at entry points and only asymptomatic individuals shall be allowed to enter.

Occupancy in cinemas should not be more than 50% of total seating capacity and seats that are not to be left empty shall be marked during booking.

“We have received SOPs from the I&B ministry for operating cinemas in the new normal. They are in line with what the Multiplex Association of India had proposed," PV Sunil, managing director, Carnival Cinemas, said.

The other major challenge is the fear of closed spaces and of abandoning the safety and comfort of home viewing.

According to a May report by media consulting firm Ormax titled Back to the Theatre, 82% of regular theatre-going audiences have been missing the big screen a lot, but 47% say they will wait for two to three weeks before deciding if it is safe to go.

Among those who said they would wait, 70% cited safety concerns due to covid fears, 12% said it is no fun to watch movies in fear, 9% said they are now used to watching TV and streaming platforms and another 9% cited reducing spending power.

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