Around 1.45 pm on Tuesday, the entrance hall in PVR Sathyam cinemas in Chennai reverberated with the sound of applause. The staff members of the multiplex were clapping as the audience emerged from one of their screens, after watching the first show post the pandemic lockdown. Cinema theatres across Tamil Nadu were given permission to reopen on November 10 after being shut since March third week due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, a video of the staff of PVR Sathyam standing on both sides of the door and applauding as the audience emerged after watching the first show went viral on social media.
While most multiplexes across Chennai started running their cinema halls with shows of fairly recent films, smaller theatres in the city were preparing to ensure that all the necessary safety measures were in place before they threw their doors open to movie buffs. Most theatres have switched to contactless ticketing mode, insisting that the customers make the payment online through e-wallets or UPI apps. They have also ensured that the seating inside the cinema hall is capped at 50% of the full capacity, by covering alternate chairs with fluorescent ribbons and clear placemarkers. Theatres have also arranged mandatory thermal screening of body temperature at the entry points and placed hand sanitisers across the theatre complex to encourage people to keep themselves safe.
PVR Sathyam, for example, has also switched the sale of food and beverages to the online mode and customers can place their orders and pick the food up from the counters directly. The multiplex has also arranged for ultraviolet treatment of their food packaging containers (popcorn tubs) to minimise the possibility of contamination. Theatres, big and small, have also put place markers on the floor to indicate where patrons can stand, thus ensuring that adequate physical distance is maintained between two persons while standing in the queue. Some theatres also have packs of PPE kits with face masks and sanitisers that are available to the moviegoers on demand for a small fee.
Further, PVR Sathyam has the option of private screening of films in which small groups of people can book the hall to watch a film for a fee.
The government of Tamil Nadu gave permission for all movie theatres in the state to resume operations from November 10. The state government had also issued standard operating procedures that are to be followed in cinema halls once they reopen. Most film theatres are running older films for shows as they await new releases from the producers.
Though the government has allowed the reopening of theatres, health experts have been saying that cinema halls are at a high risk because the coronavirus thrives in enclosed, air conditioned spaces. Watching a film also requires patrons to sit in the same space for hours together, breathing the same air that is circulated through the air conditioning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also listed visiting movie theatres as 'higher risk' activity.