Single-screen halls not keen on reopening in Dhanbad
Cinema hall owners of the coal capital aren’t enthusiastic about reopening their auditoriums, their reaction coming on Tuesday, hours after the Union information and broadcasting ministry issued SOPs for screening films, specifying a host of restrictions centred around social distancing and temperature control.
Nitesh Shahabadi, owner of Ray Talkies, the oldest cinema of Dhanbad, said, “People come to cinemas to be entertained and not to feel harassed. Unfortunately, with guidelines like keeping a seat empty between each viewer and mandatory wearing of masks, many will find it difficult to enjoy a movie.”
He also raised another fundamental question. “What exactly will we exhibit as no big movie is being released now? Also, the occupancy at halls, which is usually around 10 per cent, will go down further if we screen old movies instead of blockbusters,” he said.
Shahabadi added shopkeepers and those who ran eateries near cinema halls, most of whom have already lost their earnings, were not in a position to reopen.
Notably, SOPs released on Tuesday call for entry and exit of audience members according to rows in a staggered fashion and sufficient time between shows so that there is no rush. Regarding seating arrangements, the SOP specifies a 50 per cent cap. This means, one seat will have to be kept empty between two viewers.
Prashant Singh, owner of Puja Talkies in the heart of town, said, “The SOPs talk of frequent sanitisation of hall premises, including common areas that are accessed by all. This will escalate our costs.”
He said although hall owners of Bihar and Bengal are gearing up to open single-screen auditoriums, they were yet to take a call. “It will be difficult to manage the expenses,” Singh said, adding that he was in any case facing difficulty to pay salaries to his staff.
“Because of the lockdown we are paying 50 per cent salaries. But after reopening we will have to pay full salary. Now, we are awaiting the state government’s guidelines,” he said, adding that they would take a final call after that.