With dine in, sports, recreation, and leisure activities without physical contact now permitted for fully vaccinated individuals in districts under Phase 1 of the National Recovery Programme (NRP), the Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors (MAFE) seeks similar allowances for the reopening of cinemas.
Having been closed for more than a year since March 2020 with losses of more than RM600 million, cinemas are now in a dire situation, unlike other F&B and retail businesses that were still able to operate during the lockdowns by providing food and products through home delivery services. The livelihoods of more than 20,000 Malaysians in the film and cinema workforce are on the line, as exhibitors remain closed with no alternative source of income, or financial or monetary support from the Government.
Following lay-offs, pay cuts, and downsizing of operations, the departure of Malaysia’s third-largest cinema exhibitor, MBO Cinemas in 2020 is a red flag that cinemas can no longer remain closed while other businesses are allowed to reopen. Over 25% of cinema screens all over Malaysia have now been permanently shuttered due to the long-term closures and this number is expected increase if exhibitors are not allowed to reopen.
Despite being one of the industries with the most stringent SOPs, including social-distanced seating in halls and masking when not eating or drinking, cinemas are often among the first businesses forced to close and the last to reopen, despite no infections ever being traced back to the cinema.
Cinemas provide vaccinated audiences a safe, therapeutic, and affordable escape for Malaysians, who have spent more than a year in lockdown and whose mental health and emotional well-being is on a decline.
“Our nation’s economy and mental health is in a crisis and the prolonged closures affects not only livelihoods and businesses, but also the well-being of all Malaysians. If recreation and leisure activities can provide fully vaccinated individuals a brief respite, cinemas too can do the same safely and securely, as our stringent SOPs with compulsory masking and distanced seating do not allow physical contact and mingling in halls.
In a recent survey conducted by Cinema Online, more than 80% of audiences have expressed that cinemas help reduce their stress and anxiety. We are confident that it is safe to allow fully vaccinated audiences to come back to the cinemas, so that we can begin the recovery of the mental drain that is afflicting Malaysians nationwide,” said Sisubalan Ehambaram, Secretary of MAFE.
For audiences to return to the cinemas, MAFE will implement more enhanced SOPs in line with other countries abroad where cinemas are allowed to reopen. This includes:
With these enhanced SOPs, all cinemas in Malaysia are prepared and ready to welcome audiences back to a safer and more secure movie-watching experience.