Covid-19: Small crowds as Singapore cinemas reopen but movie-goers reassured by safety measures

Movie-goers were required to scan their Safe Entry QR code before entering Golden Village cinema at Tampines Mall shopping centre on July 13, 2020. — TODAY pic
Movie-goers were required to scan their Safe Entry QR code before entering Golden Village cinema at Tampines Mall shopping centre on July 13, 2020. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, July 14 — For movie lovers such as Ivan Tan, the decision by the authorities to reopen cinemas after a shutdown of more than three months amid the Covid-19 pandemic was an eagerly awaited chance to catch up on the latest films.

“I was elated when I saw the announcement, and immediately went online to check out what movies were being screened at the cinemas,” said the 35-year-old teacher.

Tan, who was catching the thriller Mr Jones at Shaw Theatres Lido, said that before the pandemic caused cinemas to suspend operations, he would watch movies in the cinema “two to three times a week.”

Cinemas around Singapore opened their doors yesterday after being closed since March 26 as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. The reopening of cinemas is part of a gradual reopening of some parts of the economy.

However, it is not business as usual. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (Imda) has stipulated that cinemas must adhere to a set of mandatory safe management measures upon reopening.

These include seating a maximum of 50 patrons within cinema halls, as well as enforcing a 1m safe distancing seat configuration between patrons. However, groups of not more than five family and friends can sit together without adhering to the 1m rule.

Patrons must also wear masks at all times, except when eating and drinking.

Despite the capacity limits, the six cinemas TODAY visited yesterday were seating well below the allowed capacity of 50. None of the cinema halls had more than 25 patrons.

When asked about their thoughts on the safety measures implemented, most movie-goers responded that the measures in place were well thought out.

Hazel Wang, who was catching a screening of Taiwanese horror movie The Bridge Curse at Golden Village (GV) Bedok, was not anxious but rather felt “excited” about returning to a cinema.

“There’s safe distancing, and there’s a limit on the number of people, so I’m not very worried,” the 19-year-old student added.

Similarly, Daniel Kong, 29, who was waiting for his movie to begin at GV Paya Lebar, had no qualms about the Covid-19 safety measures put in place. He said that he would definitely be back in the cinema over the next few weeks.

While most patrons felt safe going to the movies, some took additional precautions just to be on the safe side.

For example, Wang said that she would refrain from eating during the movie so she would not have to take her mask off. Likewise, Tan said he would “sanitise his hands before and after the movie,” as well as avoid contact with the arm rests.

Other measures included choosing to watch movies on weekdays instead of weekends. For Kong, a designer, visiting the cinema on a weekday would allow him to “avoid the crowds.”

Another movie-goer, Ben Soh, 28, agreed that while he felt safe with current measures, he prefers going to the movies on weekdays as it is less crowded and safer.

Soh had just finished watching The Bridge Curse at Cathay Cineplexes in Cineleisure Orchard, and described his experience in the cinema as “reassuring” as all the safety measures were adhered to.

Several cinema operators that TODAY reached out to said that they would implement other measures in addition to those stipulated by Imda.

In an emailed response, a GV spokesperson said that its cinema staff would perform regular disinfection of both general access and high touch-point areas, as well as clean cinema halls “after each screening.”

Additionally, GV said that it had increased on-site manpower support at cinemas by 30 per cent to ensure all measures are properly enforced.

Minli Han, director of Filmgarde Cineplexes, cited initiatives such as introducing the purchase of food and beverage items online and assigning employees to manage the number of people within the premises of the cinema.

“(We) hope that cinema-goers will feel heartened by (these safety measures) and be more confident about returning to the cinemas soon for the big-screen cinematic experience,” Han said. — TODAY

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