PETALING JAYA: As uncertainty looms over the cinema industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic, GSC chief executive officer Koh Mei Lee is urging the government to allow cinemas to reopen as it has had no income since the movement control order (MCO) was imposed on March 18.
Pointing out that cinemas in Sabah were already allowed to operate with standard operating procedure (SOP) in place beginning June 17, Koh said the same should be applied to cinemas in the peninsula as well.
She assured the authorities and cinemagoers that the movie chain had the SOP and guidelines including social distancing and other preventative measures at the ready to keep Malaysians safe in the theatres.
“We have no clarity on when we are able to reopen.
“We have been in discussion with the various authorities on the SOP. We are ready, ” said Koh, adding that the capacity would be less than 50%.
The cinema industry, she noted, was going through a very challenging period as ticket sales had already plunged as much as 55% from January to March this year, given that many movies were postponed due to Covid-19 in China, Japan and South Korea.
As a measure to conserve cash flow, she said GSC had begun furloughing its contract staff, cutting down on all non-essential spending, delaying renovation plans and the reopening of new cinemas.
“We are trying our best not to relieve anybody so all our full-timers are still with us. No pay cuts were imposed during the MCO period.
“But we are burning cash every day without any kind of support.”
According to Koh, cinemas under the Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors (MAFE) were estimating a loss of RM2mil for each day of non-operation.
MAFE members consist of GSC, TGV Cinemas, MBO, Lotus and MM2.
She also said the cinema industry was left out of the RM225mil allocation for the entertainment industry under the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) to help industries following the economic fallout wrought by the disease.
“We will be thankful if the government could provide us some support, ” she said.
She hoped the government would waive the entertainment tax when they reopen.
“At 25% of the nett ticket price, the tax in Malaysia is very high, ” she added.
Koh said the cinema industry had invested close to RM500mil in previous years in improving the movie-watching experience and contributed more than RM200mil in entertainment tax last year.
TGV Cinemas chief executive officer Yeoh Oon Lai said the company was awaiting clearance to reopen, adding that it was currently liaising with the government on safety guidelines.
“We hope to reopen in July, with social distancing throughout our facilities and seating in halls.
“There will be more time between screenings to allow for more thorough cleaning and sanitisation, and TGV employees will have their temperatures checked twice a day, ” he said.
GSC public relations and branding manager Sharmine Ishak said the movie chain, which operates 361 screens in 37 cinemas nationwide, would be bringing in new movies as well as reruns that were missed during the MCO period.
Moviegoers could look out for tickets priced as low as RM5, he added.
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