Cinema halls, drama theatres and auditoriums reopened in Maharashtra after several months on Friday with 50 per cent seating capacity and COVID-19 protocols as the second wave of the pandemic appears to be ebbing in the state.
These establishments, shut after the second wave hit the state, have reopened just ahead of Diwali in line with the state government's policy to ease coronavirus-related curbs. Earlier, the state government had allowed reopening of religious places and schools for Classes 8 to 12.
However, according to sources in the entertainment industry, at least 70 per cent of single screen movie halls in the state did not reopen, while a majority of multiplexes commenced operations during the day.
The state government had last week issued guidelines for reopening cinema halls, drama theatres and auditoriums by allowing them to operate with 50 per cent seating capacity.
As per the guidelines, only people who have taken both doses of the COVID-19 vaccines and those showing safe status on Aarogya Setu app will be allowed entry at these establishments.
Nitin Datar, who heads the Single Screen Cinema Exhibitors Association, said 70 per cent of the single screens in the state did not open on Friday.
"This was primarily because there was no picture flow and the SoPs are not ready. Most of the theatre owners wish to wait and watch. Some movies that released in multiplex screens had only 10 per cent occupancy," Datar said.
Exhibitors hope that by Diwali, cinema halls will be allowed to operate with full capacity, he said.
"If the occupancy is not good, we will have more expenditure and less income," Datar said.
Speaking in Pune, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said a decision on allowing 100 per cent occupancy in drama theatres, cinema halls and auditoriums will be taken after assessing the situation post-Diwali.
Meanwhile, Prakash Chaphalkar, a top office-bearer of the Multiplex Association of India, said a majority of the multiplexes have opened in the state.
Cinema halls, drama theatres and auditoriums had downed their shutters following the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, but reopened briefly in November before the onslaught of the second wave, and had stayed shut since.
With these new guidelines, the state government has made the use of mask and social distancing compulsory.
As per the norms, show timings will have to be staggered, and sale of only packaged food items and beverages will be allowed.
Moviegoers will be required to wear masks, and hand sanitisers will be made available at the establishments and washrooms, it was stated.
Spitting will not be allowed and thermal screening at entry points will be mandatory, the guidelines state.