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To end hall owners’ woes, CM allows 100 per cent occupancy

The festival will screen eight films of Soumitra Chatterjee in a special tribute section.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced allowing 100 per cent occupancy in cinema halls, up from the current 50 per cent, while inaugurating the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) virtually from Nabanna state secretariat today.

“Chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay will issue necessary notifications in this regard. The cinema hall owners have to abide by all Covid19 protocols to ensure safety of people. Wearing of masks and carrying hand sanitisers are mandatory for people visiting the cinema halls. At the same time, the hall owners have to spray sanitisers after every show. People who visit the halls should feel secure,” said Miss Banerjee.

The CM’s announcement came close on the heels of single-screen owners requesting the state government to allow 100 per cent occupancy in theatres citing poor box office returns.

They had complained that producers are hesitant to release big-banner films in Bengal, given low audience turnout at halls. Removing the 50 per cent-occupancy cap will help the hall owners recover the cost of running theatres partyly as well as boosting confidence of the producers

Although there had been several releases after Durga Puja, halls have failed to draw audiences.

The usual extravaganza was missing at the KIFF virtual inaugural programme, however, director Anubhav Sinha along with other dignitaries was present on the occasion

Brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan, who joined virtually expressed his regret for not being able to be present in person and said: “Kolkata is my family,

Bengal is my family, India is my family. I miss hugging Didi (Miss Banerjee) and seeking her blessings.” Addressing Khan, who has been attending KIFF since TMC came to power, as “my dear brother”, Miss Banerjee invited the actor at Raksha Bandhan.

“We are organising the festival in a small way this time but the show must go on. There is e-ticketing facility and films would be screened in government halls. We were very apprehensive about whether we would be able to hold the film festival this year or not. Some states could not organize it. But West Bengal is the country’s cultural capital,” she said.

Miss Banerjee requested authorities to consider allowing people with KIFF cards to watch films instead of purchasing the e-tickets, keeping in mind the problems that they may face.

“Many people do not know how to buy tickets online so why not allow card-holders from entering the hall directly as they did during previous years. Along with this, arrangements have to be made so that films that are screened in the halls are shown on large LED screens outside. In this way, many people can watch the film without overcrowding the halls,” she said.

This year, the event has been postponed due to Covid pandemic. A total of 131 films, in feature, short and documentary will be screened at state-run theatres in the city including Nandan and Rabindra Sadan.

Miss Banerjee urged artists and technicians fraternity to avail the benefits of the government-sponsored Sasthya Sathi scheme that provides an insurance coverage of Rs five lakh per family. Sinha will present the Satyajit Ray Memorial Lecture this time.

The festival will screen eight films of Soumitra Chatterjee in a special tribute section.