Hit by Covid-19 curbs, cinemas in Malaysia to close progressively in November

The closures will happen progressively in the month of November. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) -Cinema operators in Malaysia, or the Malaysian Association Of Film Exhibitors (Mafe), have come to the decision to temporarily suspend operations at all their cinemas nationwide.

The closures will happen progressively in the month of November.

Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) and TGV Cinemas will cease operation from Nov 2 onwards, and other cinemas will suspend their movie screenings and concession operations some time during the month as well.

According to a press statement from Mafe, "the closure is a cohesive decision undertaken by the industry in the light of the recent conditional MCO (movement control order) implementation, which requires cinemas to remain closed, coupled with a lack of new movies releases in the short term, which are essential to attract moviegoers back to the cinemas".

The cinema industry has taken a hit due to the pandemic, suffering revenue losses of up to 90 per cent year on year.

GSC CEO Koh Mei Lee told StarLifestyle: "The industry is incurring losses of RM1.3mil (S$428,000) a day, which translates into a total of loss of RM475 million in 2020, compared with a profit of RM102 million in 2019."

Mr Mohit Bhargava, the general manager of sales and marketing at TGV Cinemas, agreed. He said: "Since cinemas reopened on July 1 after a full three-month closure, we have already endured deep revenue losses over that period.

"The industry had shown some signs of recovery, but the most recent conditional MCO put a major strain on our operations.

He added: "Closing and reopening businesses like cinemas is extremely cumbersome, costly and disruptive to our industry, suppliers and customers.

Mr Cheah Chun Wai, vice-president of Mafe, said in the press statement: "The Malaysian cinema industry is larger than Mafe. It includes all the actors, film crews, promoters and everyone who had a hand in the making of a movie.

"The success of home-grown movies such as Munafik films, Hantu Kak Limah, Ejen Ali: The Movie and BoBoiBoy The Movie 2 would not have been possible without Malaysian cinemas as a platform.

"While this decision was not easy, it is in response to an increasingly challenging landscape for cinemas.

"And as an industry, we believe it to be a necessary step for the long-term preservation of Malaysian cinemas, so we can continue our role of contributing to the social, economic and cultural fabric of our nation in the long run."

As of now, GSC is closing its operations for only November. This cinema chain operator plans to reopen its halls in December.

Other operators will "continue to monitor the situation and react accordingly once market conditions improve".

However, all film exhibitors agree that government assistance and rental support for the struggling industry are much needed.

Ms Koh said: "Given this grim predicament, cinemas have appealed to the Malaysian National Film Development Corporation and Health Ministry for support similar to those granted by regional governments like Singapore, Hong Kong and (South) Korea to their local cinema industry, which includes screen subsidies, exemption of entertainment tax up to 2021, and loan assistance, which we hope to receive with the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana).

"This will provide a much-needed financial bridge to help cinemas get through this pandemic."

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