After unlocking, cinema is back but would you really feel comfortable about watching a movie in a theatre? Closed by governments due to COVID-19, theatres reopened in parts of India but still do you want to experience the joys of the big screen? Undoubtedly, watching a movie in the cinema hall is all about involving strangers gathering indoors and taking off their masks to drink and eat. The safety protocols for the cinema halls are based on five rules: temperature check, face masks, relentless sanitization, zero contact and physical distancing.

Most of the precautions are based on science but still there are problems and threats for COVID-19. The central government has allowed cinemas to reopen with 50 percent capacity and every state is making efforts to deal with the pandemic. Cinemas are applying the 50-percent rule by making use of checkerboard seating. In this seating arrangement, every alternate seat will be left vacant to maintain physical distancing. India’s biggest cinema chain PVR Cinemas’ representative said that families can sit together and an empty seat will be left either side of them. Actually, it is not the solution as the one-seat gap makes no sense. There is not enough “six feet proper distancing” when you have a virus that is continuously spreading through aerosols. In cinemas and an air-conditioned environment, you now have a virus that can travel much further. The government has guidelines around AC temperatures (24–30°C with 40–70 percent relative humidity) and PVR has initiated a start-up, Magneto to install air purification units that emit ultraviolet rays to kill the virus.

According to Magneto founder Himanshu Agarwal, this high-tech solution is better than traditional air purification because it does not turn into a secondary source of infection, kills the virus and makes watching a movie safer.

Apart from this, food and beverages in cinemas have reopened across India. Allowing moviegoers to eat or drink is literally the biggest task to take off their masks as the temperature screenings only identify the victims who are already showing symptoms.

Going to a movie theatre has the highest of risks, along with gyms, buffets and theme parks. People even do not wear masks and the masks resting on their chins with bare noses. Some US and UK cinema chains have reclosed and undoubtedly, this could easily happen in India too in the pandemic season. Cinemas have already had a particularly hard time but it would be even worse if they had to shut shop again. Of course, the big screen is important not just to the industry, but also to the public. Without COVID-19 safety protocols, if cinemas are not handled well, nothing is worth to recognize.  

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