West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has allowed cinemas to function in the state to ease restrictions ahead of the Durga Puja festival. Other cultural congregations like plays, music, dance and magic shows will also be allowed from 1 October, albeit with a ceiling of 50 people. With the announcement, Bengal becomes the first state in the country to restart theatre operations. Cinema is a state subject in India.

“To return to normalcy, jatras, plays, open air theatres, cinemas and all musical, dance, recital and magic shows shall be allowed to function with 50 participants or less from 1 October, subject to adherence to physical distancing norms, wearing of masks and compliance to precautionary protocols," Banerjee tweeted on Saturday evening.

Independent exhibitor Akshaye Rathi was one of the first to react to the tweet, saying it would be great if this were a sign for the rest of the country. The ministry of home affairs that comes up with guidelines in every phase of unlocking has so far denied reopening permits to movie theatres that have been shut since the middle of March. The Indian film industry has incurred losses of around Rs. 3,000 crore across languages in the six months that cinemas have been shut.

Multiplex and single screen owners have carried on social media campaigns all this month to protest the denial of reopening permits to them. Given that sectors like aviation and malls have already reopened, it is unfair to keep the industry out especially when there are about 20 lakh jobs at stake, they have argued.

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