Bhopal: Despite Centre's nod, single-screen theatres to remain shut

BHOPAL: Under Unlock 5.0, the government had nodded for reopening of cinema halls and theatres with certain restrictions from October 15. The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry also released the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the same.

But in a recent interview with the theatre associations, things turned out to be contradictory when they announced that the theatres will continue to remain shut. As per the leaders of the association, single-screen theatres in the state will not reopen from October 15 because of the simple reason that they have no films to screen.

Cinema halls across the country have been shut since March 24, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic. There are 10 single-screen theatres in Bhopal and 361 in the state.

Secretary of MP Cinema Owners Association, Azizuddin told Free Press that single-screen theatres won't open from October 15. “Theatres run films and if there are no films to be released, what will we show,” he said, adding that they may reopen around Diwali.

Multi-screen theatres may reopen but single screens can’t. "We have been asked to run at 50 percent capacity. If a film of any big star expects to do a business of Rs 100 crore in the first week how will they be satisfied with 50 crores," he asked.

The government is not providing any facilities to them, in fact, electricity charges and property tax are being levied on them and if the theatre will reopen they will also charge GST, he said. “So, why will we take the burden on our shoulders. We pay all the taxes and get a 50% collection. There is a huge loss in it,” he said.

If the government waives GST, electricity bills and property tax then they might think over it, he said. "The government has issued guidelines without talking to exhibitors and multiplex owners. The CM of our state doesn't want to talk to us. We tried to seek an appointment at least 20 times but to no avail,” he said.

Similarly, Rakesh Narula, manager of Jyoti Talkies, said they have no film to screen. “We will not reopen until we get new films,” he said. He also said they will wait until they get permission to reopen with full capacity. “Our expenditure has increased but the returns are not fixed. So, why should we take risks,” he said.

Owner of Bharat Cineplex, Ashwini Agrawal said they are not going to reopen from October 15 because there are no movies to exhibit. “Let’s see when we will reopen", he said.

Manager of Rang Mahal Cinema, MH Rizvi said the owners have given any indication to him regarding reopening.

BOX

SOP for theatres

• Should be run on 50 per cent capacity, keeping one seat vacant between two viewers.

• Ban on serving cooked food of any kind.

• Only packaged food and beverages will be allowed for sale.

• The viewers will not be allowed to carry any food inside the cinema hall.

• Staggered timings in multiplexes.

• Masks compulsory for all staff and viewers.

• Temperature in air-conditioned halls to be set in the range of 24-30°C.

• Relative humidity in the range of 40-70 per cent.

• Re-circulation of air is to be avoided to the extent possible.

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