Malaysia closes cinemas for a month next week

File photo of a woman sitting alone in a cinema. Photo: Karen Zhao
File photo of a woman sitting alone in a cinema. Photo: Karen Zhao

Malaysian cinema operators have decided to close theatres across the country for a month starting next week as they grapple with weak demand, stringent COVID-19 measures, and revenue losses. 

A statement by the Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors, or MAFE, that was released today said that the group has “collectively” decided to temporarily shut operations amid second rounds of lockdown at certain parts of Malaysia disallowing cinemas from operating. The group also noted that there has not been enough new movie releases to attract moviegoers, and worsening the situation was cinema operators having to spend more money to comply with COVID-19 measures. 

“Whilst this decision was not easy, it is in response to an increasingly challenging landscape for cinemas, and as an industry we believe it to be a necessary step for the long term preservation of Malaysian cinemas, so we can continue our role of contributing to the social, economic, and cultural fabric of our nation in the long run,” the statement said.

According to the association, all 169 cinemas will gradually stop operating in November while it continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation in the country and may “react accordingly as market conditions improve.”

MAFE said there has been a 90% annual drop in theatre admissions across the industry this year alone and revenue losses of nearly RM500 million (about US$120 million). COVID-19 measures that cinemas also need to comply with include social distancing and banning children and the elderly from entering cinema halls. So far, no COVID-19 cases have been reported in cinemas, so it seems like the industry wants it to stay that way.

MAFE vice president Cheah Chun Wai thanked cinema fans for their understanding over its latest decision. 

“To all patrons of cinemas in Malaysia we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for the unending support and solidarity thus far, and we look forward to welcoming you back soon, to once again share the magic of movies on the big screen,” he said.

The second lockdown in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya is due to expire on Nov. 9 for now. 

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