SINGAPORE - Filmgarde Cineplexes will pause operations at its cinemas from Tuesday (May 18) till May 31 at the earliest and will reopen them when it feels business conditions are right.
It is the first and only cinema chain in Singapore to voluntarily go dark without being mandated to do so since the start of Covid-19 containment measures early last year.
In a statement, a spokesman said the hiatus applies to all its outlets - in Century Square, Bugis+ and Leisure Park Kallang - because measures imposed under new Covid-19 restrictions as well as market factors have hurt box-office takings.
Filmgarde is one of the smaller players in the industry, which is dominated by Golden Village Multiplex (14 outlets), Shaw Theatres (nine outlets) and Cathay Cineplexes (eight outlets).
Under the new rules, enforced from May 16 and ending June 13, cinemas can allow up to 50 persons in a hall per screening without pre-event testing, and with safe distancing and group sizes limited to two persons. Food and beverages are not to be consumed within the cinema premises.
The lack of major releases has also "severely impacted the business viability of the industry", according to the statement. Globally, big Hollywood releases have either been delayed or moved to online platforms.
This has led to a "challenging, competitive and volatile exhibition environment".
In the statement, Mr Sherman Ong, director of Filmgarde Cineplexes, says the company "fully supports the regulatory measures", though they "add further pressure to a local industry severely hurt by the pandemic".
Singapore's total box office fell by 70 per cent in 2020 compared with the previous year, he says.
He adds that Filmgarde staff will continue to receive their salaries during the temporary closure, with the break also serving to protect the health of its front-line staff.
According to sources, food and drink sales typically account for about half of a cinema's profits.
The action movie Fast And Furious 9, which was to have been released here on May 26, has been moved by its distributor to June 24 in the wake of the new Phase 2 (heightened alert) measures. The highly anticipated film was seen by cinemas as a bright spot in a calendar that had been devoid of mass-appeal films since the release of monster movie Godzilla Vs Kong in March.
The statement adds that Filmgarde will keep an eye on the situation and reopen "once conditions improve".
Mr Ong says: "Cinema-going is a much-loved social experience in Singapore and we look forward to reopening in the coming days."