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100 percent occupancy will be allowed in theatres from Feb 1: Prakash Javadekar

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New Delhi, Jan 31: Cinema halls across the country will be permitted to operate at 100 per cent capacity from February 1 in adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar announced on Sunday.

Prakash Javadekar

Digital booking of tickets and staggered show timings will be encouraged, the minister said, releasing a set of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

"There is good news. In February, people can watch and enjoy films in theatres as we are allowing full occupancy in all cinema halls. Cinema halls can now open at 100 per cent capacity. We encourage as much online booking (of tickets) as possible," Javadekar told reporters here.

"Staggered show timings will be encouraged so that the entry and exit of the crowd can be managed better. Sanitisation and all COVID-19 safety protocols must be followed," the minister added.

The development comes days after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allowed cinema halls and theatres to operate with more people as per fresh COVID-19 reopening guidelines, to be effective from February 1.

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Javadekar said he hopes people will "welcome" this move as the government is working towards relaxing several restrictions imposed due to the abnormal challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Customers can also buy food and beverage from the stalls at the theatres and can carry it with them inside (the auditorium). These are all normal things but when the situation became abnormal due to COVID-19, we had to put these restrictions. These restrictions are on the verge to be relaxed," the minister added.

Post lockdown, the Centre had allowed reopening of theatres and multiplexes in several regions, including Delhi, parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat on October 15, 2020 with 50 per cent occupancy, functioning with stringent dos and don''ts, keeping in view the new normal.

Theatres in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh opened last November, whereas cinema halls in Tamil Nadu and Kerala resumed operation in early January.

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