In a fresh order issued today, the Central Government said cinema halls and movie theatres across India will be allowed to operate with 100% capacity from Monday, as a part of the phased ease of restrictions of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The new guidelines released by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Saturday, said: “Seating arrangement inside the auditorium of the cinemas/theatres/multiplexes is to be allowed up to 100% seating capacity.”
In its last set of guidelines issued earlier this month, the government had allowed cinema halls, which were previously permitted to house people at 50% of their seating strength, to operate at a higher capacity.
Terming the move as “good news for cinema lovers”, Javadekar said in a tweet that the Union Home Ministry had given the nod to the decision of opening the cinema halls on 27 January.
“Online booking of tickets will be encouraged. Detailed guidelines have been released,” Javadekar added.
Releasing the latest SOP for the functioning of the movie halls and theatres, the government suggested digital booking of tickets, staggered show timings, and longer intervals.
“No-contact transactions should be the most preferred mode for tickets, food, and beverages. Contact number shall be taken at the time of booking of tickets to facilitate contact tracing,” the guidelines added.
Nearly 10,000 theatres closed in mid-March when the government-imposed restrictions and a nationwide lockdown to fight the coronavirus. But in October, they were allowed to open even though the number of admissions was largely limited.
Movie theatres pose some of the biggest infection risks since they put people in a closed space, where the virus can spread easily, for an extended period of time.
As per the guidelines, all cinema halls and theatres will ensure the coronavirus protocol including social distancing, face mask, sanitisation, installation of ‘Aarogya Setu App’, thermal screening at the entry-exit point.
The SOP said that there should be “proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises and physical distancing norms shall be ensured”.
These measures should be observed all the time. the exhibition of films shall be allowed in containment zones. The States or Union Territories may consider proposing additional measures as per their field assessment, the guidelines stated.
The decision to reopen cinema halls that were closed for nearly seven months last year due to the pandemic has been welcomed by many including filmmakers.