100 per cent occupancy in theatres from today: Javadekar

NEW DELHi, Jan 31:
Cinema halls across the country will be permitted to operate at full capacity from February 1 with adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Prakash Javadekar announced on Sunday.
Adequate physical distancing, mandatory face masks and sanitisation of auditorium after every screening are among the latest SOPs issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Sunday, after the government allowed cinema halls to operate at 100 percent occupancy from Monday.
Digital booking of tickets and staggered show timings to avoid crowding will be encouraged, the minister said, releasing a set of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
“There is good news. In February, people can watch and enjoy films in theatres as we are allowing full occupancy in all cinema halls. Cinema halls can now open at 100 per cent capacity. We encourage as much online booking (of tickets) as possible,” Javadekar told reporters here.
The development comes days after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allowed cinema halls and theatres to operate with more people as per fresh COVID-19 reopening guidelines.
According to new guidelines, no film shall be allowed to screen in containment zones and states and union territories may consider “proposing additional measures” as per their assessment.
To minimise physical contact, digital transactions should be the “most preferred mode” for booking tickets or payment. Contact number shall be taken at the time of booking of tickets to facilitate contact tracing.
“Sufficient number of counters at the box office shall be opened with adequate physical distancing norms, to prevent crowding during physical booking of tickets,” the SOPs read.
Adequate time intervals between successive screenings on a single screen as well as on various screens in a multiplex shall be provided to ensure “row-wise staggered entry and exit of the audience”.
“Staggered show timings will be encouraged so that the entry and exit of the crowd can be managed better. Sanitisation and all COVID-19 safety protocols must be followed,” Javadekar added.
Producers Guild of India and Multiplex Association of India (MAI) welcomed the decision.
“We welcome the decision of @MIB_India to allow 100% capacity in cinemas from February 1 and extend our sincere gratitude to Honourable @PrakashJavdekar ji and everyone involved in facilitating this important step in our industry’s recovery,” the guild said on Twitter.
“We are deeply grateful to Hon. Minister @PrakashJavdekar & @MIB_India for allowing 100% seating capacity in Cinemas from 1 Feb. We would like to extend our gratitude to Hon. MP @iamsunnydeol for his leadership and support,” MAI tweeted.
Continuing with the basic health guidelines amid the pandemic, there should be availability of hand sanitisers — preferably in the touch-free mode — at entry and exit points.
A thermal screening of all visitors and staff will be carried out at entry points, with only asymptomatic individuals allowed to enter, according to the guidelines.
Installation and use of Aarogya Setu App “shall be advised to all,” the SOPs read.
Javadekar said he hopes people will “welcome” this move as the government is working towards relaxing several restrictions imposed due to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“Customers can also buy food and beverage from the stalls at the theatres and can carry it with them inside (the auditorium). These are all normal things but when the situation became abnormal due to COVID-19, we had to put these restrictions. These restrictions are on the verge to be relaxed,” the minister added. (PTI)