Theatres open after seven months in Covid-19 shadow

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New Delhi:┬áCinemas in several parts of the country opened after almost seven months on Thursday, ushering in a new era of contactless’ movie watching in the shadow of a pandemic with alternate seating, 50 per cent capacity and packaged snacks.

While theatres and multiplexes will remain closed in states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Chhattisgarh, they will open in several places, including Delhi and parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, with stringent dos and don’ts in keeping with the new COVID-19 normal.

It was a quiet reopening with few people venturing warily to watch a mix of regional, English and Hindi reruns such as Chhichhore , Thappad , Tanhaji and The Spy .

While PVR will resume commercial screenings on Friday, Cinepolis and INOX started showing films from Thursday with an emphasis on safety measures, including stringent sanitising and social distancing.

Yes, you heard that right! We are open now! See you at the big screen! Cinemas will not be functional in a few states until further notice, Cinepolis India said in a tweet.

Sanitisation and deep cleaning with WHO recommended chemicals is done at regular intervals to keep your surroundings safe, the tweet further read.

PVR Cinemas, India’s largest film exhibitor with 845 screens in 176 properties across 71 cities, on Wednesday said 10 states and four union territories have given their go-ahead for the reopening of cinemas.

Accordingly, PVR started operations in 487 screens. The hope is is that other states will soon give their green signal too.

The Ministry of Home Affairs allowed theatres to reopen from Thursday with up to 50 per cent of their seating capacity. They have to strictly follow the central government’s Standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The SOPs mandated by the Union government include one seat distance in halls, 50 per cent capacity, masks at all time, proper ventilation and air conditioner temperature settings at above 23 degrees Celsius.

Besides mandatory temperature checks, masks, pedal-operated touch-free hand sanitisers, multiplexes have gone digital with e-tickets instead of traditional paper tickets, self-check in with QR codes, sharing of the auditorium’s seat chart and location of the seat and online ordering of food and beverages.

Though the MHA has given its go-ahead to resuming cinema and theatre activities under Unlock 5.0, it has left it to individual states to take a final call.

With producers reluctant to release new films, cinemas have to deal with the double whammy of COVID fears and old content and have their fingers crossed as they rolled out a different kind of movie going experience.

It will take a while before new content returns to theatres as the release of major Bollywood movies 83 , about India’s cricket world cup victory, and Sooryavanshi , the latest in Rohit Shetty’s cop drama starring Akshay Kumar have been pushed to Christmas and next year, respectively.

Cinephiles who want to rewatch or catch up on movies they missed watching on the big screen can also enjoy Rajput’s “Kedarnath”, Ayushmann Khurrana-starrers Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhan and Dream Girl , crime drama Malang and Akshay Kumar-Vidya Balan-Pannu starrer space drama Mission Mangal besides Hollywood hits Bloodshot , Lion King , Ford vs Ferrari and Knives Out .

An INOX spokesperson in Kolkata said two of its facilities opened today in accordance with all the directives issued by the Centre, including e-tickets and contactless QR-based entries. Those with fever symptoms were being turned away.

Other facilities will gradually open too, she said but did not specify a timeframe.

The show timing, intermissions and exits are staggered and guests encouraged to maintain a six-feet distance from other families and groups at all the times.

SVF cinemas, which owns 13 multiplexes in Kolkata, will open its doors from Friday with all the standard protocols, contactless ticket purchase, making alternate seating arrangements and regular use of sanitisers and disinfectants before and after shows, a spokesperson said.

Satadeep Saha, a prominent distributor of films said 22 single screens across the state started screening Rajput starrer Kedarnath . Rajput, 34, passed away in June this year.

Many cinema halls were closed even before the lockdown period started.

Several states, including Delhi, Kerala and Maharastra, had directed cinema halls to close between March 11 to 16 till March 31, 2020. The Central government later directed a nationwide lockdown from March 25.

India has a total number of around 8,750 screens, in which 3,100 are in multiplexes and balance 5,650 are single screens operating mostly in small tier II, III and below cities.

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