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Single-screen theatre owners urge Bengal govt to allow 100% occupancy in halls

Single-screen owners in West Bengal on Tuesday urged the state government to allow 100 per cent occupancy in theatres, up from the current 50 per cent, citing poor box office returns as the reason.

Owner of a prominent single-screen theatre and senior member of Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA), Ratan Saha, said producers in Bollywood are hesitant to release big-banner films in Bengal, given the low turnout of audience at the cinema halls.

“Many hall owners are now regretting their decision to open theatres in October. There had been several releases since Durga puja, but nothing changed the scenario. Even Christmas and New Year failed to draw audiences. This has made the producers and distributors jittery,” Saha told PTI.

“We think removing the 50 per cent-occupancy cap will certainly help us recover the cost of running theatres to an extent. It will further boost confidence of the producers,” Saha, also the director of a local multiplex chain, stated.

He said that a formal request to sanction full occupancy in theatres has been made to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and cinema hall owners have agreed to abide by all Covid-19 protocols to ensure safety of people.

Arijit Dutta, the owner of Priya Cinema, one of the iconic movie theatres in the city, said the entertainment industry is bleeding.

“We haven’t registered more than 5 per cent occupancy even during Christmas-New Year. If the entertainment industry has to sustain, this cannot continue…” Dutta said 100 per cent occupancy should be allowed in cinema halls to help them stay afloat.

“There has been a drop in active COVID-19 cases; almost everything has opened up with precautions. Then why do cinemas still suffer? We are implementing all safety guidelines,” he said.

An EIMPA official said around 120 of the 250 single screen theatres are currently operational, the rest have closed shop, and some permanently.

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