The state government has not furnished any official reason. Theatre owners Moneycontrol spoke to say they have not been told why. Many fear the move doesn’t make sense as eating in the lobby where everyone is facing each other will lead to more chaos, and eating inside auditoriums in alternate seats is safer.
States that have allowed theatres to reopen have given a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure safety of the audiences. But Maharashtra is doing something different.
Theatres across states, including in Maharashtra, are leaving alternate seats vacant in cinema halls and seats are sanitised after every show. While in other states, while only packaged food and beverages (F&B) are allowed inside movie halls as a precautionary measure, in Maharashtra, even packaged F&B is not allowed inside auditoriums.
So, if you are going to catch up on the new Bollywood release, Diljit Dosanjh-starrer Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari in any of the theatres in Maharashtra, you won't be able to enjoy F&B during interval.
What is the reason?
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The government has not mentioned any reason regarding the restriction on F&B inside auditoriums. Moneycontrol checked with major multiplex operators but nobody is aware about the reason behind this restriction.
The state government allowed cinemas to reopen from November 5. However, big multiplexes like Inox and PVR reopened only from November 12.
Preetham Daniel, senior vice-president, Asia, Harkness Screens, said: “Eating inside movie halls is safer than eating in the lobby where everybody is facing each other. Inside the movie hall, people are looking in one direction. Plus, they are at a safe distance as alternate seats are left empty.”
An employee who works at a large multiplex chain, requesting anonymity, said: “The reason to not allow food inside auditoriums could be to not let people remove their masks. Maybe they (Maharashtra government) think taking off masks inside the auditorium is riskier than taking off masks in the lobby. This is the only possible reason we can think of.”
Move will lead to more chaos
According to the employee cited above, not allowing F&B inside auditoriums will lead to more chaos as people will only have the option of eating in the lobby.
“Imagine a 15-20 minute intermission and everybody rushing to get food and trying to finish it outside. Imagine the chaos. This will be more difficult to manage than letting everybody eat inside auditoriums,” he said.
“The lobby will be more chaotic because everybody will be rushing to the washrooms and then to the food counters. And for somebody who is sitting inside but not able to eat will be boring.”
In addition, interval time has increased during COVID-19.
Interval time has been increased from 10 minutes during pre-COVID times to 20 minutes currently.
Exhibitors ae saying Maharashtra not allowing F&B inside movie halls is not making sense at all. This is why theatre owners are talking to the state government to reverse this decision.Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemas, said: “We are in conversation with the authorities to understand where this point of concern is coming from. We are hopeful that this will be settled and reversed. One needs to logically have this conversation with them. And we have sent out our representation through Multiplex Association of India (MAI)."