Finally, after months of deliberation, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that movie theatres in the state would reopen with 50% capacity from January 5. The cinema halls in Kerala are reopening nine months after the lockdown. However, while functioning, the theatre operators must ensure that Covid protocols are strictly followed.
During the press meet, the Chief Minister said, “For nearly a year now, movie theatres have been fully closed in the state. This has led to a big crisis for thousands of people working in the film industry. Considering this, a decision has been taken to open film theatres with certain restrictions. Strict action will be taken against those theatres that do not abide by these restrictions. Since theatres have been closed for so long, they should be disinfected before being opened on January 5.” He added that cinema halls that had been shut for around ten months should be sanitised thoroughly before reopening.
Under ‘Unlock 5,’ the government had suggested several measures which included fifty per cent seating occupancy, social distancing, thermal screening, protection gear for staff, masks, sanitisation, and mandatorily providing ‘contact numbers’ for tracing people.
In addition, all entertainment avenues, including cinema theatres, auditoriums, and halls where cultural events occurred, will also be opened from January 5. However, it is not clear whether stadiums, where sporting events were organised, will be thrown open, but the Chief Minister said that sports training could be resumed. Not more than 100 people are permitted to attend cultural events staged indoors, and those happening in an open area cannot have a crowd of more than 200 people. He said, “If such events are not allowed to resume, it could even affect the survival of many art forms.”
With certain restrictions, festivals associated with temples and churches will be allowed from January 5 onwards. Moreover, Culture Minister AK Balan had announced that the state would organise the International Film Festival of Kerala from February 10 in four zones — Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Thalasseri, and Palakkad — on different dates. The event would be organised following strict Covid protocols, as well as a reduced number of delegates. Five theatres will host the festival for five days in each zone.
In several parts of the country, cinema halls resumed functioning from October. However, the Kerala government remained firm on their decision and did not allow the resumption of film exhibition. Around 670 theatres in the State had been shut from March due to the pandemic crisis.
The move comes as a big relief to the Malayalam film industry, which has suffered hard due to the coronavirus crisis. However, hours before this announcement, the makers of Mohanlal’s Drishyam have announced that the movie would be released on the OTT platform Amazon Prime. According to reports, top executive members of Kerala film chambers have decided to meet the Chief Minister to seek the government’s support for tax exemption and concession on the electricity bill on Monday.