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    Distributors, exhibitors happy as MHA allows increase in theatre occupancy

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    Film exhibitors and cinema hall owners on Wednesday welcomed the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to increase the capacity of theatres and described the move as “a big shot in the arm” for the film industry that will help the entertainment sector get back on its feet.

    The MHA on Wednesday allowed cinema halls and theatres to operate with more people in fresh COVID-19 reopening guidelines, to be effective from February 1. Kamal Gianchandani, CEO of PVR Pictures, said they are thankful to both the MHA and Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for relaxing the capacity cap in theatres.

    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 in November, whereas cinema halls in Tamil Nadu and Kerala resumed operation in early January. So far only a handful of Hindi films, including Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi, Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, Shakeela, Madam Chief Minister, and Indoo Ki Jawani have released in theatres.

    Big-ticket Hindi movies with A-listers like 83, Sooryavanshi, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Shamshera, Brahmāstra, Prithviraj and Laal Singh Chaddha are still awaiting a release date.

    Both Radhe – Your Most Wanted Bhai starring Salman Khan and John Abraham’s Satyameva Jayate 2 are scheduled for an Eid release. Shahid Kapoor’s Jersey will release on Diwali, while Ajay Devgn-starrer Maidaan will arrive in theatres on October 15 on Dussehra holiday.

    Reliance Entertainment group CEO Shibasish Sarkar said the decision will help in increasing the business.

    Days after permitting 100 per cent occupancy in movie theatres while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines, the Tamil Nadu government withdrew its decision earlier this month and said the capacity shall be restricted to 50 per cent. The government, however, allowed theatres to screen additional shows as per a directive of the Madras High Court and said the order would be in force with immediate effect.

    However, Rajasthan-based senior distributor and exhibitor Raj Bansal rued that cinemas in the state continue to remain shut, even as almost every other region was up and running.

    Kunal Sawhney, Senior Vice-President, Operations and Business Development, Carnival Cinemas said the move was highly awaited as every other industry has opened up.

    Due to the shutdown, several films such as Gulabo Sitabo, Shakuntala Devi and Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl released on digital platforms.

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