SINGAPORE - When phase two (heightened alert) measures banned eating and drinking in cinemas from July 22, it came as a blow to cinema operators as food and beverage sales make up half their revenue.
So cinemas were quick to go into action on Aug 6, when it was announced that food consumption would be allowed from Aug 10 in halls set aside for the fully vaccinated, as Singapore entered the preparatory stage of living with Covid-19.
A check by The Straits Times found that most of Singapore's major chains created vaccinated-only spaces within days of the announcement of the Vaccine-Differentiated Safe Management Measures. So far, other than a few hiccups, the cinemas' move to segregate guests by vaccination status has gone smoothly.
Golden Village Cineplex, Singapore's largest operator with 14 cinemas, opened what it calls "Vaxed Halls" from Aug 12 at four locations.
Following that, according to a spokesman, positive customer response encouraged the company to roll out vaccinated-only halls in all cinemas. GV cinemas will have roughly half its halls become Vaxed Halls.
Cathay Cineplexes, which operates eight locations, also rolled out its vaccinated-only halls from Aug 12 and there are now about a minimum of two such halls at every outlet on Thursday (Aug 19).
Shaw Theatres, the island's second-largest operator with nine cinemas, is taking a more cautious approach and launched its guest differentiation programme only on Thursday.
Instead of each venue featuring both kinds of halls, as other chains have done, Shaw will turn three outlets into Fully Vaccinated Cinemas. The entirety of the Shaw Lido, Nex and Waterway Point cinemas will be set aside for vaccinated patrons only.
Explaining the approach, Mr Mark Shaw, director of Shaw Organisation, said it believes this is the best option, after weighing factors such as safety and ease of administration.
"We prefer to have our staff manage one set of requirements at one location, and for patrons to find the right cinemas with the movies they want to watch," he said.
Independent cinema The Projector has since Aug 12 run its main Golden Mile Tower location on a hybrid model. Two of its larger halls, Redrum and Green Room, are now for the vaccinated while the smaller Blue Room, where eating and drinking is forbidden, will seat both kinds of patrons.
The cinema's pop-up satellite at Riverside Point, Projector X: Riverside, will be a vaccinated-only venue from Thursday.
Customer issues The Projector has faced since creating vaccinated-only halls include having to turn away visitors with foreign vaccination certificates that are not recognised in Singapore.
Meanwhile, patrons of Cathay Cineplexes have asked that website icons marking vaccinated-only halls be made more prominent as some had missed them, causing them to book the wrong tickets.
To encourage patrons to book vaccinated-only seats, The Projector is launching a Vaxxed Special of a free popcorn for fully vaccinated patrons with any purchase at the bar, limited to 50 redemptions daily.
Cathay Cineplexes is offering buyers of vaccinated-only tickets a free mini strawberry-glazed popcorn.