Cinemas to close to stem spread of virus

Cinemas to close to stem spread of virus

International, Thai releases delayed

Major will close all branches nationwide for two weeks. (Photo by Pitsinee Jitpleecheep)
Major will close all branches nationwide for two weeks. (Photo by Pitsinee Jitpleecheep)

The coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on Thailand's cinema business, with two major operators pointing out the worst is not yet over.

They predicted the number of cinema-goers would continue to deteriorate throughout this year, with millions of moviegoers likely to disappear after the cabinet yesterday confirmed plans to shut schools, universities and some recreational venues in Greater Bangkok that attract large crowds, including movie theatres, for two weeks starting from today as part of efforts to curb the outbreak.

SF plans to close 22 branches in Greater Bangkok, while Major will close all branches nationwide during the two-week period.

"Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, moviegoers at SF cinemas declined by 40-50%, or about 1 million admissions. It is not only because of the coronavirus, but also many big blockbusters have postponed their release date for an indefinite period," said Suwat Thongrompo, chief executive of SF Cinema City Co.

Eight international films have indefinitely postponed their release, including The Fast & Furious 10, Antlers, A Quiet Place II and Mulan, as well as three Thai films including Phu Bao Thai Baan 4 and Mother Gamer.

Mr Suwat said Thailand's movie market is worth an estimated 10 billion baht a year, with market growth averaging 10-15% annually. The growth was largely attributed to cheap prices and new content, both Thai and foreign, released into the market.

"This situation is worse than any crisis I have experienced in four decades. However, we are ready to adhere to the government's order because social responsibility is our top priority," he said. Cinema operators have launched measures to increase customer confidence with many safety procedures such as temperature scans and hand sanitiser.

"We have done these measures to restore audience confidence, but without much success as people are still concerned about the virus's spread," said Mr Suwat.

Both SF and Major Cineplex have re-arranged showtimes across the country, with some screens showing two or three movies on the same day, compared with only one movie to emphasise cost efficiency.

Morning screenings at both cinema chains were cancelled, with services starting in the afternoon daily. Both also provide more space between seats, leaving two seats vacant between seats to help prevent the virus spread.

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