New Delhi: Multiplex chains across the country, shut since the lockdown was announced on 24 March, are now looking to restart movie screenings by promising to ensure that the highest priority is given to safety amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Top player PVR Cinemas has issued a safety measure information pamphlet to its privilege members over email, detailing various measures that the multiplex chain is taking to ensure social distancing.
It says that there will be floor markers, a metre apart, for people to stand, while hand sanitising stations are being placed all across cinema halls for disinfection and hygiene.
Among the major changes that PVR is looking to introduce are doing away with a pat-down search, which will be replaced by a door-frame metal detector and a handheld metal detector in which the latter will be used only in case of an alert.
Customers will be screened and those found to have 100 degree Centigrade or showing viral fever symptoms will be asked to leave with a full refund. Customers will also be required to show their health status on the Aarogya Setu App while entering the premises.
One-seat gap in theatres
According to PVR, there will also be a major change in the cinema viewing experience as there will be a one-seat gap between customers.
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However, if one is booking tickets with friends and family, they will be seated together but the seats at the sides will be left empty. The intermission will also be extended along with a row-wise exit to avoid crowding in the auditoriums.
PVR chairman and managing director Ajay Bijli told the media earlier this month that he was hopeful of cinemas reopening by 15 August but admitted having yet to receive a nod from the government.
“A bunch of big-ticket films like Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi, the sports drama ‘83 and Salman Khan’s Radhe are waiting for theatrical releases,” Bijli said. “However, Indian films can only be released from September onwards. If we reopen in August, we will have Hollywood offerings like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.”
He also said that PVR Cinemas is looking at diversifying its portfolio, which includes plans to launch a range of food and beverage products that can be sold at both online and offline stores. PVR will use ultra violet (UV) cabinets to disinfect food packaging before serving.
Revamped air conditioning
Other multiplexes are also looking to upgrade health safety measures in view of the pandemic, with major players such as INOX promising to revamp air-conditioning systems.
INOX has declared that it will install more of the “Roof Mounted AC Package Unit (RMPU)”, which, it added, pushes out 20 per cent more fresh air than a regular AC.
“We are looking at this post-COVID phase as a new chapter in the customer life-cycle, where their trust and confidence will play a massive role,” Alok Tandon, CEO of INOX Leisure said in a statement.
INOX and Carnival Cinemas have also announced that they will be using single-use, disposable packaging in their food and beverage counters.
Carnival Cinemas has further said it will appoint staff to guide the audience to make a socially-distanced exit while INOX will be timing their shows so that it doesn’t lead to crowding during interval or exit.
According to film trade analysts, this is probably the first time in the history of Indian cinemas when theatres have recorded zero ticket sales for over months.
The pandemic has cost the sector dear.
The Hindi film industry alone has recorded losses to the tune of Rs 1,500 crore since the lockdown was imposed in the country. While the situation is extremely critical for multiplexes, it is worsening for single-screen theatres as many have already been shut down.
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