Despite Centre's nod for full capacity at theatres, Kerala hesitates

Theatres to open from January 5 in Kerala

Despite Centre's nod allowing movie theatres across the country to operate at 100 per cent capacity from February 1, Kerala is likely to hold back on account of rising COVID cases in the state.

The Health Department has said that no further relaxations will be entertained until there's a significant decline in COVID cases. It has also cautioned the State against implementing the relaxations announced by the Centre, such as letting more people into theatres.

The Department also recommended a slew of restrictions to be imposed in COVID clusters and containment zones. The suggestions were presented before Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Earlier, the State had permitted theatres to reopen from January with 50 per cent occupancy, accompanied by several measures to help the ailing film industry. With some big titles lined up for release in the coming weeks, theatre attendance is certain to pick up.

Meanwhile, film exhibitors, producers and cinema hall owners on Sunday hailed the Centre's decision to permit movie theatres to operate at full capacity. Insiders said the move would help the industry recover from the coronavirus pandemic-induced losses.

Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar has released a new set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to help the functioning of cinema halls with adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols.

Adequate physical distancing, mandatory face masks and sanitisation of the auditorium after every screening are among the latest SOPs issued by the Ministry on Sunday. Digital booking of tickets and staggered show timings to avoid crowding will be encouraged.

However, no film shall be allowed to screen in containment zones and states and union territories may consider "proposing additional measures" as per their assessment.

Post lockdown, the Centre had allowed reopening of theatres and multiplexes in several regions, including Delhi, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat on October 15, 2020, with 50 per cent occupancy, functioning with stringent dos and don'ts, keeping in view the new normal.

Theatres in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh opened last November, whereas cinema halls in Tamil Nadu and Kerala resumed operation in early January.

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