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India’s cinemas get greenlight to go back to 100% capacity as Bollywood reels from Covid-19 restrictions

The new guidelines, released by India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Saturday, pertain to “cinemas, theaters and multiplexes,” allowing them to operate at full capacity from Monday provided they abide by a set of rules aimed at preventing the spread of the disease.

These include physical distancing of “at least 6 feet” outside of cinema halls, common areas or waiting rooms. Visitors and staff must wear face coverings or masks “at all times,” as well as following basic hygiene rules such as covering their mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing and avoid spitting.

Theaters must continue to follow the precautionary measures already in place, such as having sanitizers readily available to guests, preventing overcrowding, and ensuring the auditoriums are sufficiently ventilated.  

The newly-released regulations also roll back restrictions that ravaged Bollywood, with the spate of suicides of actors over the past year sending shockwaves across the nation.

Movie production resumed in the fall with stringent social-distancing rules in place, but although they were allowed to reopen in October, cinemas and theaters had to operate at 50-percent capacity.

Industry professionals rejoiced over the development. The Producers Guild of India described the move as “an important step” in Bollywood’s “recovery” from the coronavirus-induced downfall.

Film exhibitor Vishek Chauhan celebrated the news as “another step towards normalcy.”

“We were down… We saw our obituaries written,” he said, apparently referring to the series of tragic deaths in Bollywood amid the pandemic.

While New Delhi formally removed the seating cap, it left it to the states to decide whether they are ready to ease the restrictions, noting that “states/union territories may consider proposing additional measures as per their field assessment.”

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