Cinema expansions on track despite blow

Cinema expansions on track despite blow

Robots greet movie-goers at Paragon Cineplex, which resumed services on Monday. The robot lures customers by showing movie trailers. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Robots greet movie-goers at Paragon Cineplex, which resumed services on Monday. The robot lures customers by showing movie trailers. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Despite the long closure because of the outbreak, two major cinema operators are sticking to their expansion plans for this year.

Pimsiri Thongrompo, marketing director at SF Corporation, operator of the SF cinema chain, said the company remains committed to opening four new cinema branches this year.

Two branches have already opened in Chon Buri. The other two are slated for the second half this year, with locations yet to be disclosed.

Ms Pimsiri said SF is renovating existing cinemas to meet the new requirements necessitated by the outbreak.

The design of new SF cinemas will be brighter and easier for customers to see, she said. The company will also introduce a new SF premium cinema, designed to fit social distancing requirements.

"Closing our cinemas for 75 days was the most difficult move for us," said Ms Pimsiri.

"Reopening our cinemas with limitations will be even harder because the number of seats we can sell has to decrease to 25% of capacity to meet social distancing requirements. We still have fixed costs for human resource, services and rental fees, totalling about 100 million baht per month. Moreover, we were informed we could reopen only a few days in advance, which is not enough time to promote movies."

The company has already reopened all SF cinemas across the country except Phuket, totalling 400 screens. The Phuket cinema is undergoing a major renovation.

"The number of showtimes per day has dropped to only three rounds. We expect the local cinema business will recover faster than other business sectors because movies are considered the cheapest out-of-home entertainment," she said.

The company has seven movies ready for release and is scheduled to show big blockbuster movies from the middle of June on into July.

While overall operation costs increased, SF has no plans to increase ticket prices, said Ms Pimsiri.

The impact from the pandemic convinced the company to postpone listing on the Stock Exchange of Thailand indefinitely from the third quarter this year.

Narute Jiensnong, chief marketing officer of Major Cineplex Group, the operator of Major Cineplex, said the company plans to open 40 new screens this year as planned, focusing mainly on Big C and Tesco Lotus anchors in upcountry areas.

The company also plans to produce 20 Thai movies this year, up from 10 movies last year.

Big blockbuster movies will be shown every week from the fourth quarter this year, up from one movie every two weeks previously, Mr Narute said.

All Major Cineplex branches have reopened, but only 25% of the seats are available because of social distancing. The company expects about 90% of the available seats will be booked.

In a move to lure moviegoers, Major maintained ticket prices at the box office, but is offering a 30-50 baht discount per ticket booked via its website and online channels.

Before the virus crisis, Thailand's movie market was 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.

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