Indie cinema The Projector to explore new digital options during closure

A view of one of the theatres at The Projector.
A view of one of the theatres at The Projector.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Projector, Singapore's only commercial arthouse cinema, is looking to break out of its space on Beach Road and into televisions, tablets and phones.

One avenue it is exploring during the island-wide closure of entertainment venues is to become a video-on-demand provider.

The cinema at Golden Mile Complex had to suspend operations from March 24 to April 30, as part of the Government's efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In an email interview with The Straits Times, The Projector's general manager, Mr Prashant Somosundram, says his team had been bracing for a shutdown, but last week's measures "came a bit sooner than expected".

His team will fight on, he adds.

"The times are challenging, we will do whatever we can to get through it. We see this as an opportunity to try new formats, so watch this space."

The cinema opened in 2014 as a place that gambles on films that mainstream cinemas might shun. Since then, the private enterprise that is run without government arts funding has become a landmark on Singapore's cultural landscape, due in part to its iconic retro-chic space as well as risk-taking film and events programming.

In addition to screening festival and award-winning films, its spaces are used for events and it also operates a bar. But once Covid-19 alerts were raised in Singapore in February, hirers for the spaces largely vanished.

As a cost-saving measure,the 14 full-time employees have been asked to take partial no-pay leave. Its landlord has offered a rent rebate. Negotiations for a rent waiver while the cinema is shut are continuing, says Mr Somosundram.

He adds that their just-launched online merchandising campaign - urging supporters to buy memberships, bags, movie and venue-hire vouchers and adopt-a-seat plans - is doing well. Its Project-It-Forward scheme lets fans buy movie vouchers that can be donated to strangers in need.

The cinema is also looking to become virtual. It is teaming with distributor Anticipate Pictures (French period drama Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, 2019; Syrian war diary For Sama, 2019) to see how it can stream video-on-demand content with the bonus of online question-and-answer sessions.

"We want to create a community experience, even in this time of social distancing," Mr Somosundram says.


Meanwhile, a spokesman for Singapore's largest cinema chain, Golden Village Multiplex, tells The Straits Times in an email reply that it will use the hiatus such that "when we re-open, we will come back stronger."

The company, which operates 14 cinemas, will offer staff members new roles, such as acting as mall ambassadors to manage foot traffic.

It will send employees for training in areas such as crisis management and first aid. While its halls are shut, it will keep up maintenance of its facilities and carry out renovations.

Shaw Theatres, which runs nine cinemas, is also shifting its focus to re-assignment and retraining while maintaining and renovating its spaces during the temporary closure. Employees have been encouraged to clear annual leave.

A spokesman says: "The aim is to improve productivity and build a stronger team in preparation for our re-opening."