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Film industry pin 100% hopes on crossing 50% mark

Amid the ongoing pandemic, film industry heaved a sigh of relief when government allowed theatres to reopen last year in October with 50% occupancy. However, many filmmakers - especially the ones backing big budget projects - and some theatres decided to wait it out given the business constraints of limited capacity. But things finally seem to be getting back on track as on Wednesday, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced new guidelines permitting cinema halls to allow higher occupancy effective from February 1. While it has surely resurrected hope across the industry, everyone is now waiting for revised SOPs (standard operating procedures) to be released by The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in consultation with MHA to set off with a new vigour.

Shibasish Sarkar, CEO, Reliance Entertainment says, "This guideline is definitely encouraging for all of us waiting with our films to bring it to theatres. Let's see what capacity this cap gets increased to... Even when the capacity was 50% cap we were considering releasing at least Sooryavanshi or '83 in March end or first week of April. So this step only makes our thought process more concrete."

Lauding this "positive decision", Kamal Gianchandani, CEO PVR Pictures Ltd, feels this will be useful for South Indian films which are lined up for February to begin with.

He further adds, "This would give much confidence to Hindi film producers who've got their films ready but saw 50% capacity as a deterrent. It also gives assurance to the audience that things are getting better... We've been following the SOPs to the T, we all are ready for the new ones, too."

Trade expert Atul Mohan says now there can't be any excuse to hold back those big budget films. "We're hoping for the cap to go up to 75% at least, which is decent enough in these time The real exam will begin now. We've seen how Tamil and Telugu films like Master and Krack did well in south even with 50% capacity. Master collected over ?100 crores in about 3-4 days. So, now Bollywood filmmakers should be ready for the litmus test," he explains.

Highlighting how big films need to hit screens soon to enhance the business, Sanjay Ghai, COO, Distribution and Exhibition, North, Mukta Arts Ltd, says, "We're already on ventilators, makers of big films should understand that... I hope this move will motivate states like Rajasthan and Jharkhand to allow film theatres to function."

While all eyes are on the increase in seating capacity, Tips Industries chairman and managing director Kumar Taurani hopes foe some relaxation regarding the allowance of food and beverage inside the theatres in. "This almost 30-40 minute-long interval in between for them to eat and drink given the current scenario is too much time wasted," says Taurani, whose next film Bhoot Police will release in June-July.

Film exhibitor-distributor Akshaye Rathi reveals one of the discussion points regarding the seating arrangement was that rather than keeping a chequered sitting that is keeping a seat vacant between every two people, every unit can sit together. "By unit we mean a family, couple or group of friends. So after a family of four sits together, the seat next to them can be kept vacant... Now let's see what new details emerge," he says.

Calling it "a fantastic move by the government", Milap Zaveri, writer-director, feels audience are hungry for big commercial cinema. His directorial Satyameva Jayate 2 is releasing on May 12. "Once the big films release audience will flock to theatres in large numbers. All the cinemas I'm sure will operate with all safety SOPs. More the capacity allowed to cinemas the better it is for business," he tells us.

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