Visiting theatre for a movie is the most popular form of entertainment for many but the same could not be that safe with the Home Department confirming that 90 per cent of cinema halls across the State lacked fire safety measures.

The owners' laxity in adhering to mandatory safety measures could make audience literally sitting ducks if the fire accidents reported in the cinema halls are any indication.

The district-level committees comprising officials from Police, Fire Services, Health and AP Transco conducted joint inspections in theatres a few months ago and submitted reports to the Home Department.

Ghastly incidents

The panels were formed after government took serious note of ghastly incidents that took place at Bhavani theatre in Kazipet of Warangal district and Lakshmi theatre at Salur in Vizianagaram district in August last.

Seven persons were electrocuted in the two incidents. The victims were in the queue for tickets for the Telugu film “Magadheera” starring star-turned-politician Chiranjeevi's son Ram Charan Tej. The government has asked the panels to point out lapses and instruct managements to rectify them within 15 days failing which licenses would be cancelled.

Narrow exit routes

During inspections, the exit routes were found so narrow that a stampede-like situation prevails in some theatres after completion of each show. Fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and smoke detectors were not provided in a few halls. Several managements even failed to ensure enough open space for fire tender movement to carry out fire-fighting operation, while others lack fire escape routes.

Authorities said less than 10 theatres have complied with the safety norms prescribed under the National Building Code (NBC) out of 2,000 cinema halls in the State.

“As High Court is dealing with the case, we have submitted a detailed report explaining violations committed by managements,” Home Department officials said.

Owners maintained that the halls were built as per the Andhra Pradesh Cinema (Regulation) Act with its own fire safety systems, while officials insisted that fire-fighting measures be implemented according to NBC. An agreement could not be reached on ensuring setback space around theatres, separate water tanks and extra fire escape staircases.

“It's not possible for us to make structural changes in a theatre with 200-seating capacity in a village, just to fulfil requirements of fire officials” said a theatre owner. But officials argued that rules were meant for the safety of audience. “We will act according to court directions,” they added.

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