Owners of many single-screen movie theatres in Kolkata said on Sunday that they are awaiting notifications from the Centre and the state government before deciding on reopening cinema halls which had been closed for over six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced on Saturday that movie theatres are set to reopen in the state from October 1.
“To return to normalcy, Jatras, Plays, OATs, Cinemas & all musical, dance, recital & magic shows shall be allowed to function with 50 participants or less from 1 Oct, subject to adherence to physical distancing norms, wearing of masks & compliance to precautionary protocols,” the chief minister had said on Twitter.
To return to normalcy, Jatras, Plays, OATs, Cinemas & all musical, dance, recital & magic shows shall be allowed to function with 50 participants or less from 1 Oct, subject to adherence to physical distancing norms, wearing of masks & compliance to precautionary protocols.— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) September 26, 2020
Navin Chokhani, owner of Navina Cinema in south Kolkata told PTI, “we are happy with the positive indication, but there has to be official notifications by both the state and central governments before we reopen the cinema halls.”
“The chief minister said in her tweet that there can be a maximum of 50 people during a show. We need a clarification in this regard because a hall can accommodate 500 people. As we had earlier said, we are ready to scale down our theatre’s seating capacity by tweaking the arrangement of seats in view of the changed situation.”
An elaborate Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) also needs to be mentioned in the notifications so that the halls can put the measures in place before reopening the theatres, Chokhani, a prominent member of Eastern India Motion Picture Association (EIMPA), said.
Echoing Chokhani, Arijit Dutta, owner of Priya Entertainments Private Ltd that runs Priya Cinema on Rashbehari Avenue in south Kolkata said, “we have to get a notification from the Centre before taking any decision.”
However, Sourav Bose, one of the owners of Basusree Cinema in south Kolkata said, “we are hopeful about reopening the hall from October 1 after consultations with all the partners of the cinema hall.”
He mentioned that the stipulated number of audience during screening of films in the theatre needs to be clarified.
Whether a maximum of 50 people should be permitted during a show or 50 per cent of the total capacity can be accomodated in the changed situation should be spelt out, Mr Bose said.
Mahendra Soni, co-founder and director of leading film and web series production house SVF said, “We welcome the chief minister’s announcement. This is a huge relief for the industry. However, to restart actual business, reopening has to be done at the national level. Otherwise, there will be difficulty in running the operations without new film releases.”
They are hopeful of “some kind of announcement” by the Centre in this regard, he said.
About reopening the multiplex chain run by the company, Mr Soni said, “so far as SVF Cinemas is concerned, we are waiting for detailed guidelines and safety protocols before deciding the date. We will reopen as soon as possible once we have the official notification along with the guidelines.”
Requesting anonymity, spokesperson of a national multiplex chain, said in a message, “we are yet to get any official order.”
Film Federation of India president Firdausal Hasan said in a statement, “We have been waiting eagerly for the reopening of theatre screens across the country and we welcome the West Bengal governments initiative in taking the first step towards this direction since the livelihood of hundreds are associated with the industry. Even with 50 people, it is a start nevertheless.
“We are hopeful that soon the government will consider further relaxation of the number of people inside the theatres. Let us work to make the upcoming festive season truly festive for all.”