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Cinemas witness a quiet reopening after seven months of shut-down

Theatre owners are confident to pull off their business with new restrictions and manage the safety of customers as well as their staff members.

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After a gap of seven months, cinema halls and multiplexes reopened in several parts of the country today with 50 percent capacity. Seats will be marked 'not to be occupied' for ensuring physical distancing to combat COVID-19.  

According to a report, the reopening of movie theatres on Thursday came as India’s health ministry reported 680 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest number in nearly three months, raising the country’s death toll since the pandemic began to 111,266. Delhi and parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat reopened multiplexes with stringent guidelines in keeping with the new normal. Whereas states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Chhattisgarh decided not to reopen.

Theatre owners are confident to pull off their business with new restrictions and manage the safety of customers as well as their staff members after a seven-month shutdown. But it was a quiet reopening with just a scattered few overcoming their COVID fears to trickle in to watch a mix of regional and Hindi reruns such as Chhichhore, Thappad and Tanhaji besides the new English release The Spy. 

PVR, India’s largest film exhibitor with 845 screens in 176 properties across 71 cities, said 10 states and four union territories had given their go-ahead. Accordingly, PVR started operations in 487 screens. While they will resume commercial screenings on Friday, Cinepolis and INOX, the other big players in the business, started showing films from Thursday with an emphasis on safety measures, including stringent sanitising and social distancing.

Sanjeev Bijli, Joint Managing Director, PVR cinemas said that the next two weeks will be a trial run for the theatre chain, but the cinema business will bounce back. “By the time we hit November, pre-Diwali, we hope to have some big films come out. Again not massive like Sooryavanshi or 83, which I believe are now going to come during Christmas, but even now we have new releases like Bunty Aur Babli and Sandeep Aur Pinky Farrar, Tenet, David Copperfield, lots of Tamil films, Bengali and Punjabi movies, so there is new content,” he added.

In the national capital, most cinema halls remained closed and a few that reopened attracted very few audience members. Some of them held special screenings for COVID-19 warriors or staff members and their families. PVR Naraina's first show was a special screening of Thappad for 40 coronavirus warriors, including doctors and civil defense volunteers, while staff members and their families watched Tanhaji at PVR Cinema’s at 3C's Mall in Lajpat Nagar.

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


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