After months of hiatus, Maharashtra is set to reopen its theatres and cinema halls from October 22 onwards and the state government, on Tuesday, issued a series of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the same.
Cinema halls in the state, which contributes 30-35% to the box office revenue of the country, will be allowed to operate with a strict 50% occupancy. And they will function in accordance with the prevalent guidelines of the Departments of Revenue & Forest, Disaster Management, Relief & Rehabilitation and the state’s Public health Department, the SOP document adds.
However, no exhibition of films will be allowed in Covid-19 containment zones.
Besides the general guidelines of mandatory masks, six-feet physical distancing, proper and frequent sanitisation of the auditoriums after every screening, as well as of toilets, public areas, lobbies, handles, railings, and door knobs, the SOP also mentions several norms regarding show timings, ticket booking and payments, staff and audience-related measures, air-conditioning, anti-stigma behaviour, and the food and beverages area.
According to the SOP, the Aarogya Setu App showing safe status is mandatory for all visitors. However, as an alternative, visitors can show final Covid Vaccination Certificate. Since shopping malls are already restricted to fully-vaccinated adults and children below 18 years of age, entry to multiplexes that are inside malls will be allowed on the production of movie tickets.
All staff, including those employed at the food court, ushers and for cleaning services, are required to have received both doses of the vaccine, with 14 days elapsed since their second dose.
Thermal screening for both visitors and staff is a must at all entry and exit points along with the availability of designated queue markers.
Exiting of audience from the movie hall should be done in a staggered row-wise manner to avoid crowding, as per the guidelines. In addition to this, sufficient time intervals must be allowed between successive screenings to ensure row-wise staggered entry and exit of the audience. The guidelines also mandate staggered show times in multiplexes to avoid crowding.
Digital no-contact transactions shall be the preferred mode for ticket booking as well as for food and beverage ordering, as per the SOP. Additionally, records shall be kept of the phone numbers of the customers to facilitate contact tracing. The guidelines also specify that ticket booking at the box office be allowed throughout the day, with multiple booking counters and mandatory floor markers for queue management.
Regarding the air-conditioning, the guidelines of the Public Works Department shall be applicable: temperature within 24-30 degrees centigrade, humidity ranging from 40-70%, recirculation of air to be avoided, doors to be kept open for some time before each show, with the provision of adequate cross ventilation inside the premises and installation of high capacity exhaust fans in toilets.
The SOP document also specifies that strict measures must be taken by the theatre management in association with the local authorities to curb Covid-19 stigmatisation.
India first went into lockdown in March 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. After cases started going down, theatres in the country slowly started reopening in October 2020, with Maharashtra’s own cinemas opening in November the same year.
However, the country was soon hit by the deadly second wave of the pandemic in April 2021, which led to another series of lockdowns and theatres were shut once again. While cinema halls in many other states, including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Telangana, and Karnataka, have since resumed services, theatres in Maharashtra are among the last ones to be reopened.