Major cinema chains in S'pore ready to return to tighter Covid-19 curbs

Mr Mark Shaw, director of Shaw Organisation, said all Shaw Theatres outlets are ready to meet the guidelines. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Three major cinema chains have told The Straits Times that they are ready to return to the phase two (heightened alert) measures from Thursday (July 22), with some stating their disappointment at the reintroduction of restrictions.

Mr Mark Shaw, director of Shaw Organisation, said all Shaw Theatres outlets are ready to meet the guidelines. Shaw Theatres operates in nine locations around Singapore.

"While we are disappointed with the return to phase two (heightened alert), we understand the reasons for the reintroduction of these measures and will continue to work closely with the authorities," said Mr Shaw.

"Despite the reintroduction of these restrictions, we believe that the upcoming blockbuster releases will continue to draw people to cinemas for the unique big screen and sound experience, the way film-makers intended audiences to enjoy their movies," he added.

Cinemas had only just restarted food and drink sales, following phase two (heightened alert) restrictions from May 16 to June 21 that blocked such sales.

As food and drink make up about half of a typical cinema's revenue, a ban cuts deeply into the bottom line. Because of this, two smaller operators, the three-outlet FilmGarde Cineplexes and the independent arthouse cinema The Projector, closed temporarily to reduce costs during the previous phase two (heightened alert) period.

Ms Karen Tan, founder of The Projector, called the return to phase two (heightened alert) measures "disappointing", especially as it was understood that Covid-19 would be treated as endemic in the population.

"We have cancelled seven sold out drag shows due to the ban on unmasked live performances," she said, while also listing other cancelled events.

"The dine-in ban is also a blow to our sustainability. We hope the Government will reconsider the ban and allow food and beverage concessions within the halls and dine-in in the lobby from National Day," she added.

The halls are also being converted for use by fully vaccinated patrons so that capacity can be increased under current guidelines.

Singapore reverts to phase two (heightened alert) measures from July 22 to Aug 18. Up to 100 persons may be allowed in a cinema hall with pre-event testing (PET) implemented. Only up to 50 persons may be allowed without PET.

The group size of two persons applies and cinemas must not serve food or drinks. Food and drinks cannot be consumed on the premises and masks have to be worn during screenings.

A spokesman for Golden Village Multiplex, Singapore's largest chain with 14 outlets, said that the company is ready for the curbs.

"We will check to ensure that patrons comply with these rules," said the spokesman.

With Hollywood blockbusters now being released after being held back for months, patrons will be eager to visit despite the restrictions, she said.

The phase two (heightened alert) measures will affect the release of eagerly-anticipated films such as the Disney adventure Jungle Cruise, starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson as an English adventurer and a roguish boat captain who guides her down a perilous waterway.

The superhero movie The Suicide Squad, which opens on Aug 5, will also be affected. Starring Margot Robbie as the mercenary Harley Quinn and Joel Kinnaman as super-soldier Rick Flag, the movie based on DC Comics characters is a follow-up to 2016's Suicide Squad. It also stars John Cena and Idris Elba.

Cathay Cineplexes, which operates cinemas in eight locations around the island, said it was also prepared to meet the guidelines, adding that while consumption of food was banned at its outlets, food and beverages sold at Cathay Cineplexes will be available for takeaway or delivery via GrabMart.

The spokesman added: "Going to the movies remains a popular form of entertainment and escapism for many Singaporeans and we are glad to be able to render the service in these challenging times."

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