Local film exhibitors urge government to reconsider the opening of cinemas

Most cinemas around the world have either reopened or are resuming operations. Photo: AP

In a statement, Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors (MAFE) is questioning why cinemas are not allowed to open when other non-essential services have resumed operations like gyms and casinos.

It argues the case that cinema operators have followed all the guidelines set out by the government, and claims that “cinemas are the safest form of out-of-home entertainment”.

Since the beginning of movement control order (MCO) in March last year, cinemas in Malaysia have only operated in a short period of time over the duration of one year.

Cinemas resumed operations on July 1, 2020 with conditions in place.

MAFE then decided to cease operations nationwide on Nov 2 onwards, to reopen on Dec 16 at districts undergoing conditional MCO. Films such as Wonder Woman and Soul were shown on the big screen then.

When MCO 2.0 was imposed starting from Jan 13 in several states, and now extended until March 4, cinemas were forced to close once again.

The statement reads: “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%.

“By far, the biggest loss, however, has been the exit of the country’s third largest exhibitor, MBO Cinemas, which has been forced into voluntary liquidation. In totality, over 25% of cinema screens all over the country have been permanently shuttered due to the long-term closures.

“The collapse of the cinema industry is also estimated to directly impact the livelihoods of the larger local Malay film industry, where over 20,000 Malaysians are currently employed in filmmaking and production, creatives, distribution, talent, and much more.”

MAFE has made several appeals for assistance to the government. It hopes the government would exempt or reduce the entertainment tax considering the current situation.

Datuk Yusof Haslam of Skop Productions is quoted in the statement.

“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 RM20mil to produce.

“Furthermore, strict SOP enforced on the creative industry have also further impacted all artists and performers involved.

“The government must address this situation before it gets worse." he said.

“The losses incurred by cinema operators since the implementation of the first MCO in 2020 until today must also be taken into account.

“The paralysis of the cinema industry is not impossible, but should it happen, it would be difficult to recover," added Yusof.

Cinemas in neighbouring Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, India and Japan, have resumed their operations.

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