Movie theatres have been shuttered for months due to the coronavirus pandemic in the country, but the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has now recommended that the Union Home Ministry allow cinema halls to reopen in August.
I&B Secretary Amit Khare indicated this at a close-door industry interaction with the CII Media Committee on Friday. He said Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla at the Home Ministry would take the final call.
Khare said that he has recommended that cinema halls may be allowed to reopen all over India as early as August 1, or at the latest, around August 31.
The formula suggested is that alternate seats in the first row and then the next row be kept vacant, and proceeding in this fashion throughout.
Khare said that his ministry's recommendation takes into consideration the two metre social distancing norm, but tweaks it gently to two yards instead. The Home Ministry, however, still has to revert on the recommendation.
Cinema owners, present in the interaction, however, pushed back and said this formula is unwise and merely running films at 25% auditorium capacity is worse than keeping the cinemas shut.
The attendees at the meet included media CEOs like N.P. Singh of Sony, Sam Balsara (Madison), Megha Tata, (Discovery), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime), Manish Maheshwari (Twitter), S. Sivakumar (Bennett Coleman and Co Ltd), and K Madhavan, Star & Disney, and also Chairman, CII Media Committee.
The OTT platforms present, including Gandhi of Amazon Prime, did not push back. Some Bollywood producers, notably those of Amitabh Bachchan's Gulabo Sitabo, have posted their movies on OTT, rather than live out the lockdown uncertainty.