Increased cinema capacity will ease sold-out woes for popular films: Operators

Large cinema halls with more than 300 seats will be allowed to admit up to 150 patrons in three zones of 50 patrons each.
Large cinema halls with more than 300 seats will be allowed to admit up to 150 patrons in three zones of 50 patrons each.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The Jackie Chan action blockbuster Vanguard, held back from release at Chinese New Year earlier this year, will be among the films to benefit under the relaxed seating capacity rules announced on Wednesday (Sept 23).

The highly anticipated movie opens on Sept 30. Other films, such as the Chinese animated featured Jiang Zi Ya: Legend Of Deification (opens Oct 1) and the James Bond spy thriller No Time To Die (opens Nov 12), are among the titles better able to avoid the "sold out" notice on popular days such as weekends.

Under the new rules, from Oct 1, large cinema halls with more than 300 seats will be allowed to admit up to 150 patrons in three zones of 50 patrons each.

Smaller cinema halls will also be allowed to fill up to 50 per cent of their original capacity or maintain the current limit of up to 50 patrons per hall, as long as safe management measures are maintained.

Cinemas had previously been allowed to open with the 50-patron limit and a 1m social distancing seating configuration on July 13, after having been closed since March 27.

This limited seating to about 25 per cent of capacity. In response, cinema operators have taken measures such as launching streaming portals, among them Cathay Cineplexes' Cathay CineHome, Shaw Organisation's Kinolounge and indie cinema The Projector's Projector Plus.

Responding to the new measures, a spokesman for Cathay Cineplexes says: "We look forward to welcoming more guests to our cinemas in October, especially with the opening of Jackie Chan's new film, Vanguard."

The increased capacities are a relief, but business will still be "challenging" due to remaining capacity restrictions and the postponement of highly anticipated movies, she says.

A spokesman for Singapore's largest cinema chain, Golden Village Multiplex, says that it is "pleased" with the easing of restrictions.

 
 
 

"With a strong line-up of movies waiting to be released in the months ahead, we certainly look forward to operating at maximum capacity in due course," she says.

Among the films to benefit from the increased seating capacity include the Chinese sports biopic Leap (opens Oct 1), starring Gong Li, she adds.

Mr Prashant Somosundram, general manager of indie cinema The Projector, says current seating capacity rules have hit film festivals hard because these typically feature a limited number of screenings. Those eager to watch movies at the current Mexican Film Festival have been especially frustrated by sold-out showings, he says.

"We can now release 30 more tickets per show. We can't add more screenings, but we can let more viewers in," he says.