Hyderabad: Cinema halls in Hyderabad and rest of Telangana are back in business with the audiences returning after more than eight months to enjoy their favourite entertainment.
Since reopening on December 4, most of the theatres have seen 80-90 per cent occupancy in the permitted 50 per cent seating, giving a hope for revival of the film industry after severe blow due to Covid-19 pandemic. Owners of the majority of 175 movie screens in Greater Hyderabad are happy over the public response received during the last three days and they see it as a positive development for the recovery and revival of the film exhibition business.
Telangana, which has about 600 theatres, was late compared to many other states in allowing reopening of screens but authorities justified the move in view of the pandemic situation. They moved ahead with their plans only after significant drop in Covid cases.
As the daily count dropped to less than 1,000 over the last couple of weeks, the government decided to allow reopening of theatres. Officials said improvement in the situation especially in Greater Hyderabad, which has 175 theatres, including 70 multiplex screens, led to the decision. The state government was not in a hurry to allow reopening of theatres. Some industry leaders had suggested that the authorities go step-by-step in the direction so that theatres don't have to be closed down abruptly after reopening as happened in China and some other countries. They felt that such a development would cause more damage.
The authorities also ensured that all precautionary measures are in place before allowing the reopening of theatres. They allowed alternate seating. Thus the theatres will screen the shows with 50 per cent capacity till further orders. The seating capacity in theatres varies from 400 to 1,300. The response came as a boost to the theatre owners, who feel that people are no longer scared. Audiences returned to the cinema halls with friends and families and they expressed happiness over being able to enjoy it after a long time.
Audiences thronged multiplexes, including PVR Cinemas, Inox, Cinepolis and AMB cinemas. According to the Telangana Exhibitors Association, most multiplexes and single screen theatres have resumed screening. "There is nothing like watching movies on the big screen and with friends. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience after a long time," said P. Ravikumar, a college student.
Theatre owners are also ensuring adherence to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) prescribed by the state government. Wearing face masks is a must for the audiences. Their body temperature is checked at the entrance. Theatres have also made provision for hand sanitizers at different points. The employees of theatres were seen wearing gloves, masks and visors. They expect that with further improvement in the overall situation, the government will relax the guidelines and increase maximum seating capacity.
Most theatres celebrated the return with the screening of Christopher Nolan's much awaited Sci-Fi action thriller 'Tenet'. According to PVR Cinemas, India's largest and the most premium film exhibitor with a portfolio of 835 screens in 175 properties, the advance booking for 'Tenet' has been significantly high.
In an effort to ensure health, safety and sanitization, and to build customer confidence, PVR is implementing stringent hygiene protocols, social distancing and food safety measures, along with minimal human contact across all touchpoints. "Chequered Audi seating with only 50 per cent occupancy, social distancing marked queuing, digital contactless transactions, operating 50 per cent of the restroom facilities, installation of fiber and glass shields are some of the initiatives that have been introduced", it said.
All employees of PVR Cinemas are undergoing daily health screening and are seen wearing PPE gear, face masks, gloves and face shields for extra protection. Special PPE kits with masks, gloves and sanitizers have been made available for purchase as well. A deep cleaning and disinfection regime is followed every night by specially trained staff using medical-grade disinfectant chemicals, apart from the cleaning and sanitization after every show.
Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemas said they were happy to reopen cinemas in Telangana, which occupies a significant percentage of their screen share. He believes that big films like 'Tenet' will increase occupancy and numbers, and would further provide a great out of home experience for their patrons who were forced to stay in the confines of their homes for months. "Our priority is to ensure the safety and security of our customers and employees by strictly adhering to all the safety protocols and guidelines laid down by the government and the global standards defined by the Global Cinema Federation," he said.