The Karnataka government issued a notice on April 2 implementing 50% seating occupancy in cinema halls as part of its revised guidelines in the wake of a spike in Covid-19 cases in the state.
The guidelines have mandated 50% seating capacity in restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs along with the prohibition of public gatherings, rallies, dharnas and closure of gym, swimming pools, party halls, club houses, among others.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, theatres were shut down across the country from March the same year following a nationwide lockdown. In October 2020, when the Centre permitted theatres to reopen with 50% seating occupancy across the country, the Karnataka Film Exhibitors’ Federation announced their decision not to reopen theatres in Karnataka until January 2021.
Despite the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issuing guidelines raising the seating capacity at cinema halls across the country to 100%, Karnataka announced that all cinema halls in the state would continue to operate at 50% seating capacity till February 28.
In the February 2021 circular issued by the Karnataka, while the state government permitted full occupancy in hotels and restaurants, it maintained the 50% seating capacity in theatres citing the “possible second wave of Covid-19”. This was followed by members of the Kannada film industry demanding full seating capacity, including KGF director Prashanth Neel, Raajakumara actor Puneeth Rajkumar, actor-producer Shiva Rajkumar, actor and filmmaker Rakshit Shetty, executive producer of Hombale Films Karthik Gowda, and actor Raam.
The next day the Karnataka government permitted full seating capacity in cinema halls for the next four weeks from February 4. The decision was taken after a meeting was held between state health and family welfare minister K Sudhakar, state information and public relations minister CC Patil, members of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, members of the film fraternity, and members of the state technical advisory committee.
On April 2, the state government issued fresh regulations after the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) observed that the state was “under the threat” of the second wave of Covid-19 with the persistent rise in the number of cases in March. The notice stated that “a large number of social, religious and public gatherings like marriages, political rallies are being witnessed which Covid appropriate behaviour is not being followed which may cause a setback in the appreciable gains made in the suppression of chain of transmission of Covid-19 cases in Karnataka”.
The notice directed the chief commissioner of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), deputy commissioners, and authorities to follow 50% seating capacity in the districts of Bengaluru urban and rural including BBMP, Mysuru, Kalburgi, Dakshin Kannada, Udupi, Bidar and Dharwad; ensuring strict Covid appropriate behaviour, like wearing of masks, physical distancing, and enforcing the provision of hand sanitiser/hand wash.
According to the state health and family welfare department, 4,991 new cases were reported taking the number of active cases to 34,219 till April 1, a day before the government issued the fresh guidelines.
Karthik Gowda, creative executive producer of Hombale Films, shared actor and director Kichcha Sudeep’s tweet on the issue.
No other state in the country has issued a notice regarding the same, not even Maharashtra with its alarming second wave of Covid-19 and new restrictions.