The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday granted permission to cinema halls around the country to once again begin operating at 100% seating capacity from February 1. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) issued a new set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for theatres to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Cinemas first reopened in October last year with 50% occupancy, with a couple of top superstar films as well released this Pongal in the form of 'Thalapathy Vijay's box office blockbuster Master and Silambarasan TR's successfully running Eeswaran

Some of the fresh guidelines are as follows:

1. Adequate physical distancing of at least 6 feet to be followed outside the auditoriums, common areas and waiting areas at all times.

2. Use of face covers/masks to be made mandatory at all times.

3. Availability of hand sanitizers, preferably in the touch-free mode, at entry and exit points as well as common areas within the premises.

4. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing off used tissues properly.

5. Self-monitoring of health by all and reporting any illness at the earliest to state and district helpline.

6. Spitting shall be strictly prohibited.

7. Installation & use of Aarogya Setu App shall be advised to all.

The I&B's order also stated that the auditorium inside cinemas/theatres/multiplexes are now allowed upto 100% seating capacity from the previous 50% occupancy. Physical distancing of at least six feet is required outside the auditorium, including at common and waiting areas at all times, with the use of face covers/masks still mandatory. There is still a prohibition on spitting and the use of the Arogya Setu app is advised. 

Soon after the Centre's latest decision, the Producers Guild of India took to Twitter and wrote, "We welcome the decision of @MIB_India to allow 100% capacity in cinemas from February 1 and extend our sincere gratitude to Honourable @PrakashJavdekar ji and everyone involved in facilitating this important step in our industry’s recovery." Likewise, Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi too tweeted, "100% capacity permitted in cinema halls from 1st February! Hope this can open the floodgates for films to announce their release dates & bring audiences back to cinemas in massive numbers! #CinemasAreBack."

The authorization by the Centre to increase the occupancy in cinema halls will no doubt come as a big sigh of relief for theatre owners around the country as the days ahead will see a number of big films finally arriving on the big screen after being delayed due to the pandemic. Although theatres in Tamil Nadu and the industry, including the movie-watching experience on the big screen has seen a staggering revival, especially after the release of the 'Thalapathy' Vijay and 'Makkal Selvan' Vijay Sethupathi starrer Master, the rest of the country will now be looking forward to Hindi films such 83 starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi and Salman Khan's Radhe. It is to be noted that Vijay's Master, which released in theatres worldwide on January 13, began streaming on Amazon Prime Video from January 29, with cinema halls screening the film still continuing to show good numbers.