22 Feb – The Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors (MAFE) said in a statement today that they are strongly urging the Malaysian government to reconsider the opening of cinemas, as its continued closure is crippling the Malaysian cinema industry.
Cinemas across Malaysia are still forced to remain closed throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO), which is now expected to continue until 4th March 2021, whereas several economic sectors including non-essential services like spas, gyms, casinos, and recreational fishing have been allowed to open.
The closures have gravely impacted the industry. Over 25% of cinema screens all over the country have been permanently shuttered, and the collapse of the cinema industry is estimated to directly impact the livelihoods of the local Malaysian film industry, where over 20,000 Malaysians are currently employed in filmmaking and production, creatives, distribution, talent, and much more.
RM325 million has been allocated by the Malaysian government to fund and support the arts, culture, entertainment and the creative industry, but cinemas were exempted from this aid.
General (Rtd) Tan Sri Datuk Amar (Dr) Mohd Ghazali Dato' Mohd Seth, Chairman of MAFE, said "The cinema industry cannot sustain closure for much longer and it will undoubtedly collapse, affecting the livelihoods of every Malaysian serving across the entire supply chain. We hope that the Government will seriously reconsider their decision to allow us to reopen."
Since the beginning of the pandemic, cinema operators have followed an established set of stringent SOP guidelines from authorities, which includes mandatory contact tracing, temperature checks, and social distancing. Additionally, exhibitors have invested into thorough and frequent sanitation after every show, personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, as well as the provisions of alcohol hand rubs for customers.
MAFE seeks an allowance from the authorities to let families from the same household sit together side-by-side, with a single seat gap between every two seats, which is currently in practice by cinemas in Singapore where infections remain low. No COVID-19 clusters have ever been traced back to cinemas in Malaysia as well as on the global level.
It is noted that in other neighbouring and developed countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, and Japan, cinemas have been permitted to operate. India, which has just reopened its cinemas today, has also done so at 100% capacity.