Cinemas in different parts of Asia-Pacific are increasingly able to expand their operations, as local authorities around the region judge the need for social distancing to be reduced. Singapore, Australia’s New South Wales and India’s West Bengal are all easing up.
In Singapore, where theaters re-opened in mid-July, operators of large auditoria of more than 300 seats will be allowed to sell up to 150 tickets per hall in three blocks of 50 patrons each, starting from Thursday. Smaller capacity venues will be allowed to sell up to 50% of their seats. Since July 13 all Singapore cinemas had to observe a capacity limit of 50 tickets per theater, and other safe distancing and hygiene measures.
The move was announced as part of a multi-ministry statement outlining a wide range of derestricting moves that reflect Singapore’s very low level of new coronavirus cases. After a dangerous flare-up that permeated foreign workers’ dormitories, the country reached a total of 57,742 confirmed cases. But Wednesday’s additions were just 27, of which 9 were imported.
The closures and capacity restrictions badly hurt Singapore cinema operators. Golden Village, the country’s largest chain reported that admissions fell from 4.1 million in the first half of 2019 to just 1 million between January and June 2020. Ticket prices softened fractionally and revenues dropped from S$44 million to $11 million, parent company Orange Sky Golden Harvest said in a regulatory filing.
Also from Thursday, the populous Australian state of New South Wales will allow cinemas, live theater venues and concerts to increase their seating to 50% of capacity, and a maximum of 1,000 people. New South Wales enjoyed three days last week with no new community transmissions of the virus.
NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin said: “for workers across the full spectrum of the performing arts – from box office staff to ushers, from technicians and roadies to the artists – this change means more jobs.” He added that audiences can now “enjoy experiences we have all missed so much during the pandemic.”
While India continues to create headlines for its 6.1 million and rising coronavirus infections, the whole country is not affected in the same way.
The state government in West Bengal will allow cinemas to reopen from Oct. 1, subject to continuing physical distancing and mask-wearing measures. They will be allowed to operate with 50 people per screen. Cinemas across India have been closed since late March.