Temporary closure of Malaysian cinemas for long-term survival

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / pic by BERNAMA

ALL cinemas nationwide have been temporarily shut down since yesterday following the decision by the Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors (MAFE) due to the resurgence of Covid-19.

“Closing and reopening cinemas is extremely cumbersome, costly and disruptive, not only for cinemas, but also for our landlords and customers,” MAFE VP and MBO Cinemas CEO Cheah Chun Wai said.

“While this decision was not easy, it is in response to an increasingly challenging landscape for cinemas, and as an industry, we believe it to be a necessary step for the long-term preservation of Malaysian cinemas, so we can continue our role of contributing to the social, economic and cultural fabric of our nation in the long run,” he added.

The closure is a cohesive decision in light of the recent Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in some states, requiring cinemas to remain closed, while movie releases are slower in the short term — which is the main pull for movie-goers.

He added that he would like to thank cinema patrons in Malaysia for their unending support and solidarity thus far.

“The Malaysian cinema industry is larger than MAFE.

“It includes all the actors, film crews, promoters and everyone who had a hand in making the movies possible. The success of homegrown movies, such as ‘Munafik’, ‘Hantu Kak Limah’, ‘Ejen Ali: The Movie’ and ‘BoBoiBoy The Movie 2’, would not have been possible without Malaysian cinemas as a platform,” he said.

The cinemas have already appealed for government assistance and rental support for the industry, and it stands to destabilise the entire entertainment system if it fails.

MAFE said in the statement that the industry will have to rely on the support and goodwill of the government, landlords, film studios and cinema-going public to pull through the times.

“The coming months will be critical to the continuance of the Malaysian cinema industry.

“However, the industry remains optimistic that post-Covid-19, cinema attendances will rebound stronger than ever, as movie-going will remain a top entertainment choice for Malaysians,” it said.

The cinema industry has been hit hard and has endured deep revenue losses due to a drop of admissions going up to 90% year-on-year, while the cinemas have to invest heavily on stringent safety standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure strong compliance and safety for the customers, while they enjoy movies on the big screen.

Previously, to deal with the financial crisis, the MBO Cinemas CEO began selling limited edition merchandise, as the severity of the situation began in late January following the Chinese New Year celebrations.

At the time, MBO’s admission rate had begun dropping 10% lower than the usual numbers, which means that a screening to 50 customers had begun to drop to only two to three customers.

Other cinemas had also been forced to reduce the number of customers per screening to ensure that physical distancing is maintained and SOPs are complied with.