Relenting to the Kannada film industry’s demand, the Karnataka government deferred enforcing 50 per cent seating in about 200 cinema theatres in eight districts to April 7 to contain the Covid pandemic, an official said on Sunday.
“The order restricting 50 per cent of seating capacity in cinema halls in eight districts, including Bengaluru where Covid cases have been rising will be applicable from Wednesday (April 7) up to April 20,” a civic official told IANS.
The other seven districts across the southern state are Bengaluru Rural, Bidar, Dakshina Kannada, Dharwad, Kalaburagi, Mysuru and Udupi.
To reduce the surging cases, Karnataka state Chief Secretary P. Ravikumar on April 2 ordered theatres in the eight districts to restrict seating to 50 per cent of their capacity from Saturday to maintain social distancing and follow Covid appropriate behaviour.
“A revised order was issued on Saturday to apply the restriction from April 7, as hundreds of fans bought online tickets in advance for all shows till Tuesday (April 6) for films released on Friday and imposing the restriction would have disappointed them and caused loss to the film industry,” said the official.
A Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) delegation, led by Sandalwood superstars Shivarajkumar, Puneet, Yash and Sudeep urged state Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Saturday to defer the order by a few days, as the theatres were following the guidelines to contain the virus spread.
“As theatres have been complying with the guidelines in force since October 2020 when they reopened after 6-month lockdown, no positive cases were reported from the fans who watched films in their halls,” KFCC president Jairaj told reporters after the state government rescinded its earlier order.
One of the new Kannada films released on Thursday was ‘Yuvarathna,’ starring Puneet, second son of matinee idol and Kannada thespian Rajkumar. “About Rs 40 crore has been invested in making Yuvarathna, a blockbuster. Its producer and distributors would have suffered heavy loss because the cost of a show is the same for 100 or 50 per cent seating capacity,” asserted Jairaj. Short of lockdown and night curfew, the Karnataka state government reimposed stringent restrictions across the state till April 20 to contain the pandemic as cases crossed the 10-lakh mark on last Thursday, including over 4.4-lakh in Bengaluru, which has been the epi-centre of the virus that broke out in the state in mid-March, 2020.
The theatres have made wearing a face mask, thermal screening, maintaining social distancing and sanitising hands mandatory to all fans for admission.