Cinemas in India will get a reprieve beginning October 15 when they are allowed to open outside containment zones. The Ministry of Home Affairs made the announcement late Wednesday, saying that restrictions will include 50% seating capacity. Further guidelines will be issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The move means movie theaters will be back in operation about a month ahead of the lucrative Diwali holiday in mid-November. However, cinemas will remain closed in Maharashtra (which includes Mumbai) until October 31.
Cinemas in the prolific market have been shuttered since March 24. India is a massive consumer of homegrown titles, some of which moved to streaming during the lockdown. It is also the hardest hit international territory in terms of COVID-19 cases with 6.3M through September 30. Fatalities stand at nearly 99K.
Business trade Mint reported in mid-September that Indian box office could be looking at a loss of about $450M due to the lockdown which nixed the busy Eid-al-Fitr holiday.
The Multiplex Association of India posted to Twitter that it “wholeheartedly welcomes” the government’s decision to allow reopenings. “We are committed to ensure a safe, secure and a hygenic cinemagoing experience for the movie lovers of our country,” the org wrote.
After the announcement, filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma tweeted that his movie Corona Virus will be the first film to release locally.
Also from October 15, theme parks will get a green light with measures to be set by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The easing of restrictions falls under the so-called Unlock 5 guidelines which will continue until October 31, according to local reports.
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