The West Bengal government on Friday permitted 100% seating capacity in cinema halls and multiplexes across the state from now on.
West Bengal government’s decision comes after the Eastern India Motion Picture Association and Telugu Film Producers Council wrote to their respective state governments- Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal- seeking to raise the occupancy of seats in cinema halls from 50% to 100%.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, cinema halls were asked to function with 50% capacity. I will ask my state chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to issue a notification allowing 100% capacity in cinema halls [in West Bengal] from now on. But I will request cinema hall owners to ensure that audiences wear masks and use hand sanitisers. Halls must be sanitised after every screening,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.
She was speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) at state secretariat Nabanna.
As per the Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Centre in October 2020, all cinema halls outside containment zones are permitted to screen films with 50% seating capacity. Earlier this month, when Tamil Nadu permitted cinema halls in the state to run at full capacity, the Ministry of Home Affairs sent a letter asking the state government to revoke its order, saying that the state was diluting the guidelines laid down by the Ministry.
Welcoming the decision, Arijit Dutta, owner of Priya Cinema in Kolkata told Bengali news channel News18 Bangla, “It’s the right decision. We were facing a lot of problems. At normal situations, the average occupancy is anyway around 50%. This decision will dispel audiences’ fear about contracting the disease in cinema halls. We thank the state government for this decision.”
Hindi actor Shah Rukh Khan, who is also the state’s brand ambassador, virtually addressed the gathering.
Expressing regret at being unable to attend the inaugural ceremony in person, Khan said: “I have been coming to Kolkata for the inauguration since 2011. This time, however, I could not come due to the [Covid-19] pandemic… This year, we all have to try and make our families happier. So whatever we do from today onwards it has to be for our families, it has to be for the country. You don’t have to pay a lot of surcharge for entertainment. Tickets are expensive sometimes, OTT platforms are expensive, but I think we should dedicate this year to entertaining all our families throughout the world. We should work harder. ”
He urged everyone to share and contribute “beyond the consideration of money and finances”.
“I think this year it is time to do some social work, actually. Whether it is through our own entertainment, whether it is going on ground helping great leaders like didi [Mamata Banerjee] and everybody else near our houses to put forth the message of peace, happiness, harmony and love,” he said.
In the 26th edition of KIFF, 131 films (including feature, short and documentary formats) are being screened across eight government-run cinema halls in Kolkata. The film festival, which is being held from Saturday till January 15, will have special centenary tribute screenings in honour of filmmakers Federico Fellini, Eric Rohmer, sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, singer Hemanta Mukhopadhyay and Bengali actors Bhanu Bandopadhyay and Soumitra Chatterjee.