Chennai: Lending its ears to the demand of the theatre owners, the Tamil Nadu government on Monday permitted 100 per cent occupancy in cinema halls in the state.
The relaxation comes after owners of cinema halls made a representation appealing to the government to allow them to screen films with full seating capacity.
However, the government said the decision was taken as the number of COVID-19 infections was coming down in the state.
The state government had earlier allowed reopening of the theatres, which remained closed since the national COVID-19 lockdown came into force in March last year, from November 10 with 50 per cent seating capacity.
However, a big chunk of cinema theatres had been shut though the government allowed resumption of screening of films while many movie halls that are already open too witnessed less number of footfalls.
The producers were also reluctant to release new movies with just 50 per cent capacity.
Vijay's special request
The decision comes ahead of the Pongal festival when big budget movies are slated for release and also new coronavirus clusters - star hotels, IIT-Madras - are cropping up.
The government's decision comes in the wake of actor Vijay meeting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami, who made a request to allow 100 per cent occupancy in the theatres.
Vijay's movie Master is set for release during Pongal. Dhanush's Jagame Thandhiram is also gearing up for release.
In its order on Monday, the government said messages on precautionary measures to avoid the virus spread shall also be screened during the show time in cinema theatres to create awareness among the public.
"Based on the decrease in the COVID-19 cases day by day, the theatre owners association have represented to the government to increase the seating capacity of cinemas, theatres and multiplexes," the GO said.
On 100 per cent occupancy
Asked on the continued closure of a section of theatres and how the order allowing 100 per cent capacity would make a difference, Joint Secretary of Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association S Srither said they expected films that would be released coinciding with Pongal festivities later this month would bring in more people.
He said the industry as a whole thanked Chief Minister K Palaniswami for accepting their plea.
He also said theatres that opened following the 50 per cent seating capacity permission could not generate decent revenues and the occupancy was less than 10 per cent.
"Since quality films did not get released and as spectators did not turn up, sixty per cent of theatres are closed down in Tamil Nadu," Srither told PTI adding Tamil Nadu has 1,104 screens.
Films of popular actors Vijay and Simbu 'Master' and 'Easwaran' resepctivley are slated to be released on January 13 and 14 and the new flicks would help closed movie halls to reopen, he said.
To a question on virus related apprehensions, Srither said, "we assure the government and the audience that we will strictly follow all the stipulated safety measures."
People would be thermal screened and sanitisers would be provided and if movie lovers arrive without a mask they would be provided mask free of cost, he said.
"We will also sanitise the premises between each show," he said.
(With inputs from IANS and PTI)