Cinema hall owners have asked the Central government to allow operations at 50 percent occupancy, arguing that it will not be economically viable otherwise. Reports suggested the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) is considering a staggered opening of theatres with a 25 percent cap on capacity.
The government is in the process of preparing new guidelines for further relaxation of restrictions from August 1. If the 25 percent cap is enforced, in addition to the entire front and back rows, every alternate seat in a row must be kept empty, as per a Business Standard report.
According to the hall owners, unlike in other countries, in India, the cost of the rental is high and tickets are priced low (around Rs 150-250), which makes it unviable to run operations if half the seats are not occupied.
The nationwide lockdown, imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, has impacted 10,000-odd screens (of which 2,800 are in multiplexes).
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"If in flights, where the average journey is two hours, the middle seat has not been kept vacant. It defies logic why cinema halls being asked to keep front and back rows empty, plus every alternate seat," said a senior executive of a multiplex company.
The owners have proposed a seating arrangement resembling a chessboard, which will ensure 50-50 distribution. "The discussions between screen owners and the government are ongoing and a final call will be taken soon," sources told BS.
Multiplex owners, meanwhile, have prepared a detailed standard opening procedure (SoP) to be followed when operations commence. These include sanitisation of the hall before and after each show, the row-wise exit of customers, staggered show timings, paperless tickets, among others.
Industry body FICCI in its Unlock 3.0 roadmap has suggested the government to reopen multiplexes and cinemas and metro rail, and allow international flight services, among others, with adherence to all safety precautions. The industry chamber has also favoured reopening of schools and educational institutions keeping in mind the local situation, as it outlined standard operating procedures for the lifting of several restrictions as part of Unlock 3.0.Click here for Moneycontrol's full coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic