The Maharashtra government is positive about reopening cinema halls and theatres but its priority is to ensure safety of citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic, state Cultural Affairs Minister Amit Deshmukh said on Thursday.
During a meeting with representatives of the Theatre Owners Association, Deshmukh said he would discuss the matter with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat.
Cinema halls and theaters have been shut since last six months in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday issued new guidelines for permitting more activities in areas outside the containment zones that include opening up cinemas, theatres and multiplexes with up to 50 per cent of their seating capacity from October 15.
However, the state government in its latest lockdown guidelines on Wednesday said cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres in malls and market places, auditoriums, assembly halls will continue to remain closed.
"When we reopen them (cinema halls and theatres), utmost priority will be given to the safety of citizens. The state government is positive regarding their reopening and I would discuss the same with Thackeray, Ajit Pawar and Thorat," Deshmukh said.
"Dussehra, Diwali, Christmas are the time when people make a beeline for theatres and cinema halls. This is a good time to restart them. The government is thinking how to reopen them as people's health and safety is paramount," he said.
Deshmukh said at present, phase 5 of the unlock process is underway wherein hotels, restaurants, bars have been allowed to open in the state, but cinema halls and theatres will remain closed.
During the meeting, representatives of the Theatre Owners Association highlighted the problems they are facing, like license renewal, electricity bills and property tax, during the lockdown period.