After almost 10 months of a complete ban on opening of cinema halls amid Covid-19 pandemic, the central government on Sunday allowed these to be operated at 100% capacity from February 1, except in containment zones, while adhering to health safety protocols.
It however directed for staggered show timings for multiple screens to avoid crowding.
Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar made the announcement earlier in the day while releasing a fresh Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on preventive measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 for cinema halls and theatres.
As per the new SOPs, Javadekar, however, said that sanitisation and Covid protocols will have to be adhered to but people can buy food from the stalls inside the theatres.
The Minister added that the restrictions put in place due to Covid are on the verge of ending.
"Good news for cinema lovers. Today, issued the revised SOP for the film exhibition, 100% occupancy will be allowed in theatres from February 1, but all Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHF) Covid-19 guidelines will have to be followed," Javadekar said.
The SOP comes in the backdrop of the Ministry of Home Affairs' January 27 order to permit the opening of cinema halls and theatres.
At the onset, the SOP states that no exhibition of film shall be allowed in containment zones and that states and UTs may consider proposing additional measures as per their field assessment.
The SOP clarifies that all Covid-related safety measures must be adhered to inside the premises. The general guidelines specify that respiratory etiquette must be followed, including usage of face masks, adequate social distance of at least six feet outside auditoriums, common areas and waiting areas at all times, no spitting, and use of Aarogaya Setu app to be encouraged.
Thermal screening of visitors would be carried out at entry and exit points in a staggered, row-wise manner will be done to avoid crowding. Sufficient interval 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.
The SOP promotes use of contactless digital transactions for payments for tickets, food, and beverages etc. Sufficient number of box office counters shall be opened and purchase of tickets at the box office shall be open throughout the day and advance booking allowed to avoid crowding at the sale counters.
Stressing on the sanitisation of the entire premises, the SOP calls frequent sanitization of the entire premises, common facilities, and all points which come into human contact like handles, and railings.
The SOP has laid down specific measures for creation of public awareness against Covid by display of dos and don'ts throughout the premises by way of announcements, standees and posters.