Malaysian cinema operators have closed their doors for at least a month, following escalation of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The decision was a voluntary one announced by the Malaysian Association Of Film Exhibitors (MAFE). While the actual date of closure may vary slightly, the two largest chains Golden Screen Cinemas and TGV ceased admitting patrons on Monday (Nov. 2).
Malaysia has been under lockdown, known as a Movement Control Order, of varying degrees since March 18, as an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus. With case numbers once again rising steeply, in a second wave that began at the beginning of October, the MCO has been extended until end of December. The country has seen 32,500 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and 249 attributable deaths.
“The closure is a cohesive decision undertaken by the industry in light of the recent conditional MCO implementation, which requires cinemas to remain closed, coupled with a lack of new movies releases in the short term which are essential to attract moviegoers back to the cinemas.”
GSC will remain closed until December. Other operators will monitor the situation and may take decisions to stay closed longer.
Cinemas in Malaysia were previously closed for more than three months from March 18- July 1 this year, but reopened in July. Attendance numbers, however, have not picked up, and local reports suggest that box office for the year to date is running at 90% below normal levels.
That has put huge pressure on cinema operators. GSC CEO Koh Mei Lee told local media that the Malaysian exhibition industry is losing RM1.4 million ($340,000) per day.
Even before the latest closures number the third ranked chain MBO, which is backed by private equity firm Navis Capital, filed for voluntary liquidation. It closed 17 of its 27 theaters on Oct. 12.
Other chains have begun to seek diverse forms of revenue, such as gaming, online shopping and concessions. They are also expected to seek government help from the film industry regulator FINAS and from the Ministry of Health.