New Delhi: Ever since the “unlock 1” was announced in June, there has been a phased reopening of many sectors of the economy. However, cinema halls have been barred from opening so far given the fears that large gatherings will lead to a spike in Coronavirus cases. The country, despite all its lockdown and containment measures, is still struggling to curb the spread. Amid this, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has recommended to the Union Home Ministry that cinema halls all over the country be allowed to reopen as early as August 1 – or at the latest, around August 31. Also Read - This Therapy Can Combat Secondary Infections in Corona Patients

The formula suggested is that alternate seats in the first row and then the next row be kept vacant and proceeding in this fashion throughout. I&B Secretary Amit Khare said that his ministry’s recommendation takes into consideration the two metre social distancing norm, but tweaks it gently to two yards instead. Also Read - COVID-19 Impact: Cricket Australia Mulls Moving Boxing Day Test From Traditional MCG Home to Adelaide

Khare indicated this at a close-door industry interaction with the CII Media Committee on Friday. He said his opposite number in the Home Ministry, Ajay Bhalla, will take the final call. Also Read - Poor Kids in India at Higher Risk of Contracting COVID-19

Cinema owners, present in the interaction, however, pushed back and said this formula is unwise and merely running films at 25 per cent auditorium capacity is worse than keeping the cinemas shut.

The attendees at the meet included media CEOs like N.P. Singh of Sony, Sam Balsara (Madison), Megha Tata, (Discovery), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime), Manish Maheshwari (Twitter), S. Sivakumar (Bennett Coleman and Co Ltd), and K. Madhavan, Star & Disney, and also Chairman, CII Media Committee.

The OTT platforms present, including Gandhi of Amazon Prime, did not push back. Some Bollywood producers, notably those of Amitabh Bachchan’s “Gulabo Sitabo”, have posted their movies on OTT, rather than live out the lockdown uncertainty.

(With agency inputs)