MAFE decries govt’s ‘unfair treatment’ as cinemas forced to remain closed during MCO unlike gyms, spas

MAFE said the collapse of the cinema industry will threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Malaysians. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
MAFE said the collapse of the cinema industry will threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Malaysians. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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PETALING JAYA, Feb 22 — The Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors (MAFE) has questioned why cinemas have to remain closed during the movement control order (MCO) when restrictions have been loosened for other recreational outlets such as gyms and spas.

A press release from MAFE said the local cinema industry has been crippled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and cited losses of up to 90 per cent in revenue year-on-year and more than RM500 million in total losses in the year 2020 alone.

The group also questioned why the government has not given cinemas the green light to reopen when it has done so for other non-essential businesses.

“With the continued closures, Malaysian cinemas will have been partially or fully closed for nearly a year since the first MCO in March 2020.

“These forced shutdowns have gravely impacted the industry, resulting in countless job losses, permanent closures of cinema locations, and a significant downsizing of operations for all exhibitors across the board.

“In some instances, cinema employees have even received extensive pay cuts of up to 70 per cent,” said MAFE.

MAFE added that more than 25 per cent of cinema screens have drawn their curtains for good due to the long-term closures imposed by the MCO.

It also warned that the collapse of the cinema industry would spell disaster for more than 20,000 Malaysians who work in filmmaking and production, creatives, distribution, talent, and more.

“As a local filmmaker, we have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic which has staggered the productions of three films including Abang Long Fadil 3, Polis Evo 3, and Mat Kilau, in which we have already invested more than RM20 million to produce.

“Furthermore, strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) enforced on the creative industry have also further impacted all artists and performers involved.

“The paralysis of the cinema industry is not impossible but should it happen, it would be difficult to recover,” said film director and producer Datuk Yusof Haslam.

MAFE is asking the government to reconsider allowing cinemas to operate at a reduced capacity during this period. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
MAFE is asking the government to reconsider allowing cinemas to operate at a reduced capacity during this period. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

MAFE has appealed to the National Security Council, the Finance Ministry, and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission for assistance in the past, including requests for an exemption or reduction of entertainment taxes for film exhibitors.

Despite the lack of income, MAFE said that cinemas are still forking out funds to maintain seats and equipment but such expenditures are becoming too overwhelming to bear.

The association is urging the government to reconsider its decision to keep cinemas shuttered during the MCO, adding that there are no known Covid-19 clusters that have originated from cinemas.

MAFE also doubled down on cinema operators’ commitment to following the SOPs including temperature checks, contact tracing, physical distancing, and sanitisation of premises.

“In times of distress, (the cinema) provides audiences with an affordable and safe venue for escapism, as with other leisurely activities like casinos, spas, group exercises at gyms, and individual sports such as golf.

“With movie-goers following the SOPs and the little contact they have with other patrons, movie-going is no doubt one of the safest out-of-home entertainment places to be,” read the press release.

The cinema industry became one of the hardest-hit economic sectors after the MCO kicked in last March.

The pandemic led to the permanent shutdown of Malaysia’s third largest-exhibitor MBO Cinemas, which went into voluntary liquidation in October 2020.

Golden Screen Cinemas also shuttered its Cheras Leisure Mall and Berjaya Times Square branches last month due to the prolonged closures.

Cinemas in neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia are currently open to moviegoers with safety measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

However, cinemas in places like the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and Germany remain shuttered due to lockdown restrictions.

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