KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has introduced drive-in cinemas to tempt people who are worried about going to the movies amid the coronavirus pandemic, but are bored of watching movies on their television screens.
While cinema operators have been allowed to reopen from July 1, many Malaysians are still fearful of contracting the virus as they sit in dark movie halls and breathing the same air with strangers for two hours.
Kuala Lumpur's drive-in outdoor cinema, in a throwback from the past, began screening its first movies on Wednesday night (July 29) in the heart of the city centre at the Malaysia Tourism Centre.
"The event, entertainment and tourism industry are badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. To save jobs and generate the economy, we came up with the idea to have a drive-in cinema, with social distancing, to fit the new norm," said Mr Arvin Radahwa, director of co-organiser TwoSpicy Entertainment Live.
At the M-Junction drive-in cinema in a carpark, a stone's throw from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, moviegoers can watch movies on the outdoor 9m by 4m screen, against the stunning backdrop of the KL skyline.
Each vehicle gets a portable speaker when they pay the RM99 (S$32) ticket price for two people, so that they can clearly hear what their favourite actors are saying on screen.
Portable rechargeable fans are also provided to encourage moviegoers to turn off their engines.
The ticket price includes food such as burgers, donuts, instant noodles, popcorn and drinks. Patrons must be at least seven years old.
Temperature checks are conducted before a vehicle is allowed in.
"Our focus is to keep our customers safe, while also ensuring that they have a good movie experience with us," said Mr Jack Gill, director of co-organiser MD Events Asia.
The Malaysian capital isn't the only place to go for a drive-in experience.
Two weeks ago, Perak launched its own drive-in cinema, the Casuarina Sini-Drive near state capital Ipoh, with tickets starting from RM36.
The M-Junction drive-in cinema in KL will run for three months, with a mix of old and new movies.
Only 50 vehicles are allowed per screening, with two screenings every evening, starting at 6pm.
Medical assistant Tivan Gagarin, 27, said he felt safe watching a movie at a drive-in cinema.
"It's a very nice concept, we can have social distancing and enjoy a movie. It's the new norm. It's something new, something most youngsters would try out," he told ST.
Said copywriter Gwen Yap, 48: "This is my first experience at a drive-in cinema and it's been fun. I was worried about feeling uncomfortable given the humidity but it was bearable, as we were given portable fans. It sat nicely on the dashboard and kept me cool."
Sedans will be placed at the front of the carpark, with the bigger MPVs and SUVs in the last two rows to avoid them blocking the view.
More food can be ordered during a movie using an online system, with the food delivered directly to the vehicle. Toilets are also available.
"Many people have not been able to sit back and enjoy the simple things in life - like a movie night out - due to the recent circumstances," said Mr Othman Chraibi, business executive officer of the Beverages Business Unit at Nestle (Malaysia), one of the sponsors for M-Junction cinema.
The Perak drive-in cinema can accommodate 70 cars.
Cinema chain TGV Cinemas has also announced upcoming Moonlight Drive-in Cinemas in KL, Nilai in Negeri Sembilan and in Johor Baru.