Covid-19: Despite no new blockbusters, Malaysian cinema operators see positive admissions since reopening

Cinema operators have seen a promising response from moviegoers over the past two weeks after they re-opened July 1. — Picture courtesy of GSC Cinemas
Cinema operators have seen a promising response from moviegoers over the past two weeks after they re-opened July 1. — Picture courtesy of GSC Cinemas

KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — Cinema operators in Malaysia are happy to see a positive response from moviegoers over the past two weeks since reopening after more than 100 days due to the Covid-19 movement control order (MCO)

Although there have been no new big movie releases, the operators expressed their gratitude to their customers for supporting them at these trying times.

To better find out about ticket admissions and customers’ compliance with the new standard operating procedures (SOPs) over the past two weeks, Malay Mail reached out to the country’s three major cinema operators.

Here are some insights about the business in the new normal:

Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC Cinemas)

GSC Cinemas was overwhelmed with the great response they received on the first day with their free screening of Jumanji: The Next Level on July 1.

“Our free screening was met with great support despite the fact that the movie is already available on streaming services,” said GSC Cinemas public relations and branding manager Sharmine Ishak.

“This shows that there is demand from moviegoers for older movies even if it’s something that they have already seen before.

For the first two weeks since re-opening, Sharmine said they have recorded over 150,000 admissions.

“There has been a lot of excitement and hype for our anime screenings especially Digimon Adventure and My Hero Academia, which is exclusively available in GSC.

“Digimon is now Malaysia’s biggest movie for these two weeks,” he added.

Sharmine also lauded the moviegoers for sticking to the health and safety guidelines set by the government and the cinema.

“I believe customers are becoming quite accustomed to the enhanced safety and precautionary measures that are being implemented across all industries – not just in cinemas.

“As such, there are no issues with public compliance as customers are also becoming more conscious and concerned about their well-being and hygiene.”

Moving forward, Sharmine said they can no longer just rely on the ticket and concessions sales to stay afloat after the sector was badly hit by the pandemic and MCO.

With social distancing in place, he said they are operating at a reduced capacity, which will also have an effect on their bottom line.

“As such, it is key for us to adapt and diversify our offerings to stay ahead of the changes in the new norm.”

According to Sharmine, GSC Cinemas has already embarked on several initiatives to expand its revenue streams in view of the fast-changing theatrical landscape.

One such initiative is opening its own restaurant and bar, Jin Gastrobar, located at Aurum Theatre in both The Gardens Mall in Kuala Lumpur and The Mall, Mid Valley Southkey in Johor Baru.

“There are also other plans to start cafes in some GSC locations soon, which will allow us to venture into the vibrant F&B market and complete the lifestyle experience of movie-going.”

Apart from that, he added that they are also looking into expanding the business as a media owner to offer media solutions, digital advertising, event management, site branding and other services.

TGV Cinemas

Admissions for TGV Cinemas have been at a steady pace over the past two weeks since the re-opening although the cinema operator is screening re-runs at the moment.

“Our customers slowly reacquaint themselves with the big screen and become increasingly comfortable with the cinema environment.

“We have noticed a gradual build-up from the first to second week as awareness increases and our irresistible promotions, including movie tickets and special food and beverage offers from RM5 are also proving popular,” said TGV Cinemas chief executive officer Yeoh Oon Lai.

In terms of operations, Yeoh said it has been a smooth transition as the public is already well-aware of the SOPs.

“There are still a small fraction of customers purchasing their last-minute tickets at the kiosks but otherwise, many have migrated to purchasing tickets and F&B online.

“To further encourage this, we are presently waiving booking fees and are offering additional F&B discounts for online purchases,” he added.

Yeoh also admitted that the lack of content would be their primary challenge since re-opening but hinted that some key titles will be screening soon.

Train to Busan presents: Peninsula was just released yesterday, and Tenet as well as Disney’s Mulan are scheduled for August.

“Although it is a fluid situation, we hope to be able to screen many new titles soon as Malaysians love their big blockbuster movies,” added Yeoh.

MBO Cinemas

Similarly, MBO Cinemas have seen an encouraging response from moviegoers with many of them going back to the theatre to catch the rerun movies since July 1.

According to MBO Cinemas spokesperson, ticket admission is slowly picking up with an average of between 15 and 25 per cent demand over the past two weeks.

“At this point, our operational strategy is to run at an optimum level and recover the overheads in the months to come.”

The spokesperson also noted that the moviegoers are seen adhering to the guidelines set by the government.

However, he admitted that gaining customers’ confidence during new normal and the lack of new movies due to the pandemic remains a challenge for them.

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