India Allows Cinemas to Resume 100 Percent Seating Occupancy

PVR Cinemas - H 2017
Courtesy of PVR Cinemas

A PVR Cinema in Mumbai

COVID-19 infections and death rates have been on a steady decline in the country. Several Bollywood tentpoles that waited out the pandemic, such as Salman Khan's action crime tentpole 'Radhe,' are expected to hit cinemas in the weeks and months head.

India began allowing 100 percent occupancy in cinemas on Monday, lifting a 50 percent cap on seating capacity that had been in place since October 2020.

"Seating arrangement inside the auditorium of the cinemas/theaters/multiplexes is to be allowed up to 100 percent seating capacity," India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said on Saturday.

Various COVID-19 prevention measures remain mandatory for both cinema staff and patrons, including staggered show times and bookings, mandatory social distancing, and the use of face masks and hand sanitizers. The government also has imposed detailed guidelines for air ventilation within movie theaters, stipulating target temperature and humidity ranges, and advising against recirculation. Several regions of the country designated as COVID-19 containment zones will continue to insist that cinemas remain closed.

The relaxation of cinema restrictions follows a broad improvement of COVID-19 infection rates within India's borders. As of Monday, India’s weekly Covid-19 death toll had fallen by 88 percent since a peak in September 2020, and weekly fatalities dropped below 1,000 for the first time since the first week of May last year.

Amid the improving public health and market conditions, several big budget Indian films that have waited out the pandemic for a theatrical release are making preparations to hit cinemas. Tamil-language tentpole Karnan, starring Dhanush (aka Venkatesh Prabhu Kasthuri Raja), responded quickly to the cinema occupancy good news by announcing that it will release theatrically in April. Bollywood superstar Salman Khan's action crime tentpole Radhe also is expected to hit theaters in the coming months.