Bengal theatre owners welcome Mamata's decision to allow full occupancy of cinemas

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Kolkata, Jan 8 (PTI) Theatre owners in West Bengal on Friday welcomed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's decision to allow full occupancy of cinema halls in the state.

Banerjee, while inaugurating the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival, announced the decision to allow cinema halls to operate at full capacity by maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols against the present occupancy limit of 50 per cent and asked Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay to issue a notification.

The decision comes a few days after the single screen owners shot off a letter to the chief minister in this regard.

They cited lesser revenues since the reopening of the cinema halls in October and no known instance of the spread of COVID-19 through theatres as the basis of their demand.

Ratan Saha, Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA) office-bearer and owner of Ajanta theatre, said the decision comes as a breath of fresh air for cinema hall owners who are reeling under the blow of the coronavirus-induced lockdown and very poor audience turnout since the reopening of theatres.

'It will embolden big producers from both Bollywood and Tollywood to plan big releases and not hold them indefinitely,' Saha said, adding it will also hopefully reduce the trend of releasing movies on OTT platforms.

The EIMPA will send a letter to the chief minister thanking her for the announcement, he said, adding the body will ensure that there is no laxity in wearing of masks and use of sanitiser.

Priya Entertainments Private Ltd owner Arijit Datta said the announcement will give the owners a 'rope to climb' from serious losses and fight for survival.

Another cinema hall owner, who wished not to be named, said that the state government's decision will require the nod of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

'I am not sure whether the announcement made by the honourable chief minister can be enforced,' he said.

'We have a report that the Centre has already asked the Tamil Nadu government to withdraw its order of allowing 100 per cent occupancy in theatres,' he added. PTI SUS ACD ACD