RMCO: What would going to the cinemas in Malaysia look like in the "New Normal"?
The plot thickens
It is a known fact that we Malaysians love our movies. Every weekend, cinemas are constantly packed with a buzzing crowd coming to watch the latest blockbuster film. Even with the growth of the Internet in recent years, a study conducted in 2018 showed that nearly half (49.82 per cent) of the Malaysian population still chose the cinema as their preferred medium for movies.
According to FINAS, Malaysia’s central government agency for the film industry, the statistics for Malaysian cinema admissions only increase every year—both 2018 and 2019 recorded 80 million admissions compared to 2017’s 72 million cinema admissions.
With cinemas set to reopen on July 1, there will be many locals hoping to finally watch a movie on screens bigger than their 14-inch laptops. But wait—don’t take your partner out on a long-overdue movie date or plan your next family outing just yet. Here are some important things to bear in mind.
Hygiene will be the most important factor when you’re out for anything at all. Cinemas will be upping their sanitisation game with a lot more frequent disinfection sessions, before and after every movie screening. In fact, TGV’s CEO, Yeoh Oon Lai, shared with us that the cinema will be “increasing time in between movie sessions (minimum 30 minutes) to allow for more thorough cleaning and sanitisation.”
Social distancing will also be enforced inside cinema halls. According to Senior Minister of Security Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on June 22, cinema halls now have the cap limit of 250 people at any one time.
"If they can only fit fewer than 250 people with 1m social distancing, then it has to be fewer than 250 people," he went on to explain. Cinemas will be adopting new seating plans in which you would be sitting between two empty seats, with seats in front and behind you empty as well. So, unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), you will be expected to sit separately from your family and friends during the movie.
We know sitting by yourself in a cinema does not seem like a fun idea because who doesn't love grabbing your cinema partner by the arm or whispering side commentary every now and then? But when you're in a closed space with other people for at least a good two hours, that is the only option—the importance of social distancing cannot be overstated in this current climate. As GSC CEO Koh Mei Lee aptly tells us, “While social distancing seating is less than ideal for movie-going...this is a necessary measure we must take for the sake of the health of our communities.”
If you do want to catch a film with your loved ones in a more intimate setting whilst social distancing, GSC’s Aurum is something you can consider due to its lower seating capacity, providing a luxury private experience to movie-goers.
In addition, Yeoh has also revealed that TGV Cinemas is presently “working towards a seating plan that allows family and friends to be able to enjoy movies together on the big screen with us, up to a maximum of three per group.” This would work as a ‘buffer zone’ for each little group whereby all four sides of the group will remain empty. “We’ll be carefully monitoring the situation and will progressively allow larger groups over time,” Yeoh said.
As cinemas are communal areas, it is also important to bear in mind that what we do affects those around us as well. Always remember to bring out a mask (if you can wear it during the movie, even better), hand sanitiser and distance yourself from others in areas such as the ticket counters, waiting areas, bathrooms and the snack bar. Instead of queuing up for tickets, consider purchasing them online instead.
The cinema will always be a place of comfort for many and we are sure the cinema industry will bounce back soon enough—probably even sooner than we think, judging from a survey in May showing that more than 50 per cent of Malaysians are gearing up to return to their favourite cinemas within a month once they reopen.
As TGV’s Yeoh Oon Lai explains, “Cinema is not just a venue to watch a movie but rather a place that brings joy and escapism, providing an opportunity to immerse yourself in amazing stories. As such, we believe that the big-screen cinematic experience is irreplaceable, unique and larger than life and here to stay for the long-term.”
Remember, everyone is doing the best that they can to protect themselves and each other during this global pandemic so it is up to each and every single one of us to make sure we are doing our part in flattening the curve. Movie-going may seem like a simple enough thing to do but just like everything else, we must all proceed with caution and careful consideration.
Enjoy your movie but don’t forget to wear your masks and wash your hands!