Coronavirus: Quiet start for cinemas but operators expect pickup in attendance

Above: Mr Thomas Chih (left) and his friend, who wanted to be known only as Mr Cortez, 36, having popcorn at the 9.50am screening of biographical drama Escape To Pretoria at Shaw Theatres Nex yesterday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG Left: (From right) Movieg
(From right) Moviegoers Lee Swee Chin, 78; Chua Leong Giok, 83; and Aw Sah Lee, 83, were also at the Nex cinema yesterday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Above: Mr Thomas Chih (left) and his friend, who wanted to be known only as Mr Cortez, 36, having popcorn at the 9.50am screening of biographical drama Escape To Pretoria at Shaw Theatres Nex yesterday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG Left: (From right) Movieg
Mr Thomas Chih (left) and his friend, who wanted to be known only as Mr Cortez, 36, having popcorn at the 9.50am screening of biographical drama Escape To Pretoria at Shaw Theatres Nex yesterday.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHN
Above: Mr Thomas Chih (left) and his friend, who wanted to be known only as Mr Cortez, 36, having popcorn at the 9.50am screening of biographical drama Escape To Pretoria at Shaw Theatres Nex yesterday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG Left: (From right) Movieg
An employee of GV VivoCity cleaning and disinfecting seats before a screening yesterday, the first day of the reopening of cinemas. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Yesterday's reopening for cinemas, closed since March 27, was quiet for the most part, but operators expect an uptick in attendance in the coming weeks as bigger commercial releases open.

Operators told The Straits Times that a lower turnout is normal for weekdays, especially Mondays. New rules reducing the number of patrons to 50 for each screening also had an impact on crowds.

The closures, to curb the spread of the coronavirus, were lifted with new measures in place, like the 50-person limit, a 1m social distancing seating configuration, use of the SafeEntry check-in system and the wearing of masks at all times in the hall except when eating or drinking.

At Shaw Theatres Nex, broadcast media executive Thomas Chih, 42, was there with a friend to catch the 9.50am screening of the biographical drama Escape To Pretoria. He said there were about 10 people at the screening.

Mr Chih said he had been wanting to watch the film, which stars Daniel Radcliffe, and chose a Monday morning, which is usually quiet anyway. The film buff, who goes to the cinema once a week, said that "as long as community cases don't surge, it is quite all right".

A spokesman for Golden Village Multiplex, Singapore's largest cinema operator with 13 outlets, said ticket sales, especially from members of its GV Movie Club, a club for privileges and discounts, have been "very positive".

"We have had customers snapping up tickets for the first day of reopening as early as July 3," she said. The strongest demand for reopening-day tickets was for Japanese anime titles My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising and Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna.

Two fan screenings of the Digimon movie at GV Plaza - one yesterday and the other today - were sold out in a few hours, so four more sessions were added, she said.

A spokesman for Shaw Theatres said audiences will "return cautiously to the cinemas" as confidence grows in safety practices and studios release major films in the next two months, such as science-fiction thriller Tenet, Disney period drama Mulan, superhero movie The New Mutants and monster movie A Quiet Place II.

Cathay Cineplexes said patrons seemed to be taking the safe distancing measures in their stride.

A spokesman for independent cinema The Projector said that with the 50-person seating limit, screenings for the highly anticipated Train To Busan: Peninsula are selling out fast. "So far, sales indicate that people are excited to return to the big screens."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2020, with the headline 'Quiet start for cinemas but operators expect pickup in attendance'. Subscribe