Tuesday, December 6

Artistes, cinema owners welcome move to allow 100% occupancy in theatres

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Members of Bengal’s culture and entertainment world heaved a collective sigh of relief on Saturday night after the ministry of information and broadcasting allowed 100% occupancy in cinemas from February 1. While some are eager to immediately implement the revised occupancy norms, many want to wait till February 5, the first Friday after the announcement. However, some event organizers, including those of the Dover Lane Music Conference, will stick to the 50% occupancy norm for their 2021 edition of the fests.

“Sitting arrangement inside the auditoriums of the cinemas/theatres/multiplexes is to be allowed up to 100% capacity,” read a statement from the ministry. According to the new list of standard operating procedure (SOP), the restrictions will remain in Covid-19 containment zones.

Last October, cinemas had reopened with 50% occupancy with low footfall and very few big releases. The cast and crew of three Bengali releases on February 12 — ‘Dictionary’, ‘Prem Tame’ and ‘Magic’ — are jubilant with the new SOP. “This is a big news for the ‘Prem Tame’ team,” said director Anindya Chattopadhyay. According to popular television actor Oindrila Sen, this was the “biggest gift” she could have received for her Tollywood acting debut in ‘Magic’. Minister Bratya Basu, who is neck-deep in election work even as he awaits the release of ‘Dictionary’, said this SOP will help ensure better response to his film. “During the inauguration of the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival on January 9, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had advocated 100% occupancy of auditoriums. The Centre took over a month to allow the same,” said Basu.

Equally happy are other practitioners of fine arts. According to Kallol Bose, joint secretary of the Academy of Fine Arts, “This SOP was long due. People in our fraternity would have to starve if the low-occupancy norm continued. We had to take bank overdraft of Rs 45 lakh to pay salaries to our staff. Unless 100% occupancy is allowed, groups can’t earn enough to hire an auditorium repeatedly. Regular hiring is mandatory for an auditorium to pay salaries.”

Organizers, who have conferences lined up, have welcomed the new SOP. Sarod player Debojyoti Bose, who is the convener of Rajya Sangeet Academy that’s hosting a conference between February 3 and 7, called this a “fantastic” move. “When enormous crowds are visiting the zoological garden, Victoria Memorial Hall and attending political meetings and rallies, why should there be restrictions for concerts? It was our chief minister who had suggested 100% occupancy since she understands the pain of artistes reeling under financial crisis,” said Bose, who will take a final call on the occupancy at the Rajya Sangeet Academy conference on Monday.

However, the Dover Lane Music Conference, which will be held from February 13 to 16 — with performances by Amit Chaudhuri, Ustad Rashid Khan and son Armaan, Pt Ajoy Chakraborty and Amaan Ali Bangash among others — will be held at the Nazrul Manch with 50% occupancy.

Source: TimesofIndia

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