Madras HC says no permission can be given to theatres beyond 50% occupancy

Chennai: The Madras high court on Friday said that no permission can be given to run cinemas beyond 50% capacity until January 11, when it will hear petitions challenging Tamil Nadu Government’s Order (GO) which permits 100% occupancy in film theatres and multiplexes, reported Bar and Bench.

Tamil Nadu government on Monday (January 4) had issued an order allowing 100% occupancy in theatres following requests from actors Vijay and Silambarasan, whose movies Master and Eesawaran is awaiting a Pongal release. In a representation to the government, the Theater Owners Association cited the decreasing number of Covid-19 cases as a reason to permit 100% occupancy.

Actor Vijay, whose highly anticipated film Master is expected to release on January 13, personally met with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Edappadi K. Palaniswami, a week ago to request for relaxation in the current limitations, following which the government released the order wherein it stated that the seating capacity of Cinemas/theatres/Multiplexes shall be permitted to increase from existing 50% to 100% by following the Standard Operating Procedure issued already.

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However, the move received widespread criticism and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs asked the Tamil Nadu government to revoke that order. A resident doctor from Puducherry made a heartfelt post (now deleted) on Facebook describing the conditions in which they have been working for almost a year now. 

He requested actors Vijay, Silambarasan, and the government of Tamil Nadu to re-think the damages this move could inflict. The post went viral on the internet and has been shared multiple times across all social media platforms.

The Madurai Bench of Justices MM Sundresh and S Ananthi guaranteed the Theaters Association that it would be impleaded in the issue and that if the decision was against them, requests would be passed to attempt to alleviate their losses too.

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During the hearing, the court asked the state to consider the theatre owners’ pleas as well and referred to a suggestion of increasing the number of shows instead of capacity.

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