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Delhi govt’s decision to shut cinemas could lead to irreparable damage for film industry: MAI

In response to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to shut cinema halls amid spike in COVID-19 cases following the emergence of Omicron variant, Kamal Gianchandani, President, Multiplex Association of India (MAI) on Tuesday appealed to the state government to reconsider the order as it could lead to an “irreparable damage” for the Indian film industry which had just started to recover from the effects of the lockdowns.

Gianchandani instead suggested alternate methods to counter the surge of cases by introducing ‘double vaccination requirement’ to enter theatres and going back to the seating capacity restriction of 50 per cent.

Kejriwal on Tuesday declared a ‘yellow alert’ under which schools, colleges, cinemas and gyms will remain closed, shops dealing in non-essential items will open on odd-even basis, and metro trains and buses will run with 50 per cent of seating capacity in the city.

In accordance with ‘Level-1’ alert under the graded response action plan (GRAP), there would be night curfew between 10 pm and 5 am and private offices will function with physical attendance of 50 per cent of the staff, barring essential categories.

“Delhi Government’s decision to shut down Cinemas in Delhi while enforcing the ‘yellow’ alert of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has caused massive uncertainty and could lead to irreparable damage for the Indian Film Industry. The period since March 2020 is undeniably the most challenging period faced by Indian cinemas in their long history,” Gianchandani said in a statement.

The MAI president said the exhibition sector has adhered to the safety protocols as prescribed by the government and that not a single outbreak of Covid-19 anywhere around the world has been traced to a cinema.

“After being allowed to reopen, cinemas have already demonstrated an ability to operate safely for the public and employees via usage of enhanced ventilation systems, enhanced hygiene, and other safety protocols…

“While we fully understand the need at Government’s end, to take necessary preventive measures, we would request that cinemas should get equal treatment with comparable industries and institutions,” he added.

Like Maharashtra, Gianchandani said, Delhi too could issue a rule that only those who are fully vaccinated would be allowed to enter theatres.

“Instead of closing the cinemas, we would urge the Delhi Government to consider introducing ‘double vaccination requirement’ to enter cinemas, as is the case in some of the other states (including Maharashtra),” he said.

“Alternatively, the seating capacity restriction of 50% can be reintroduced at cinemas. We call on the Government to recognize the unique social, cultural and economic value of the Indian film industry, and to provide the support it so desperately needs to survive this unprecedented period,” he added.

Cinema halls in Delhi were allowed to reopen with 50 per cent seating capacity in the last week of July, with the state government approving 100 per cent occupancy starting from November 1.

The MAI, which represents more than 11 cinema chains, operating more than 500 multiplexes across the country, with around 2,000 plus screens, is a nationwide group of cinema operators that informs, educates and advocates on behalf of the cinema exhibition sector.

Earlier in the day, the producers of “Jersey” on Tuesday said the Shahid Kapoor-starrer has been postponed yet again amid a surge in the coronavirus cases in the country and concerns over the Omicron variant.

The news of the film being delayed for the fourth time comes just three days before its countrywide release in theatres on December 31.

Sports drama “83”, which released last Friday, despite receiving glowing reviews is struggling to keep the momentum at the box office going after the success of “Sooryavanshi” last month, which was a much-needed reprieve for the exhibition industry amid the pandemic.

The Kabir Khan directorial, based on India’s historic win at the 1983 Cricket World Cup and fronted by Ranveer Singh, has collected Rs 54.29 crores in four days since its release in India.

Rohit Shetty’s cop action drama “Sooryavanshi”, starring Akshay Kumar, released during the Diwali weekend and saw an overwhelming response at the domestic box office minting Rs 196 crore net.

Next up for a theatrical release is SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus “RRR”, starring Ram Charan and Jr NTR, on January 7. PTI

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