Published On : Wed, Oct 13th, 2021

With ban on snacks inside cinema halls, State Govt robs fans of fun & food!!

Movie theatres reopen on October 22 in Nagpur and across the state with Covid-19 riders

Nagpur: Come Friday the October 22, entertainment would galore as cinema halls and multiplexes reopen in Nagpur and across Maharashtra, albeit, with Covid-19 riders. Now, watching movies on the big screen, however, will be of lesser fun as the State Government has banned food and beverages inside the screening areas.

According to one of the owners of the cinema theatre, eating food at the kiosk is allowed, but taking it inside the hall is banned. This is just illogical. Snacking inside the screening area is a part of the entire movie experience. Food and beverages sale in the multiplexes is a high margin revenue stream and only a negligible number of people consume food at the kiosk itself. Many people might not buy snacks if they realize it can’t be taken inside, said the owner.

The District Collector R Vimala on Tuesday notified the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for reopening of cinema theatres and restarting of cultural programmes in a phased manner. Similarly, the Collector also notified the norms for permitting auditoriums to host plays. The Collector’s order makes it clear that only those adults who have taken both the doses of the vaccines will be allowed entry. Also, at least 14 days should have passed since the second dose. For those below 18, entry is allowed without vaccination because no such provision exists for that age group. However, it will be mandatory for such minors to carry a photo ID proof in which the date of birth is mentioned.

What is pricking more to the minds of theatre owners is the 50% occupancy limit. This curb will hit the movie theatres hard financially. This restriction is illogical as buses are running at full capacity, in auto rickshaws people are sitting next to each other, planes are full, but, for some reason, you can’t have people sitting next to each other in cinema halls, lamented the hall owner adding, it is the most negative point of the restrictions.

A national-level movie distributor, said this was the first time such a detailed SOP has been issued for the sector. Right from the diagram of the seating plan, to staff vaccination status, to how the food menu should be presented to patrons is mentioned in it, he said.

The Covid-19 riders are not hurting only at movie halls. Theatres, which thrive on live interaction with the audience, too use the 50% seating cap. A theatre organizer said, “Instead of a 50% occupancy limit, the government should have made complete vaccination mandatory for theatre-goers. If all are fully vaccinated, we can go for 100% occupancy. It’s not feasible to hold a commercial show at 50% occupancy.” He added, it will be financially impossible for Mumbai groups to stage plays in Nagpur, due to the logistics cost and limited revenue.

But some see the situation as a blessing in disguise. A theatre veteran said local groups can cash in on the opportunity. They are practising for a commercial play, which they plan to launch as soon as theatres open. Theatre-lovers are eager to watch plays. If they bring good content, it will be an opportunity for local talent, he said.

One of the theatre organizers said watching plays will cost more in the coming days. The present standard ticket rate is around Rs 500. With 50% occupancy, it will reach up to Rs 700, at least. Everyone is facing financial constraints post-Covid, he stated.