Cinemas are set to go dark in Malaysia as the country struggles to deal with a third wave of the coronavirus.

A nationwide state of emergency was announced early on Tuesday on behalf of the King Al-Sultan Abdullah. The emergency could last until Aug. 1, depending on the state of coronavirus infections, according to a palace statement.

While that move has political significance – the government of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin cannot be challenged through an election during the emergency period – the declaration has little additional impact on cinemas beyond the latest Movement Control Order that was unveiled a day before.

The Prime Minister on Monday announced that the a new MCO would apply to five states and three federal territories. The MCO is essentially a stay-at-home directive that bans inter-state travel and means the closure of most non-essential businesses, including cinemas, for the next two weeks. Muhyiddin called the virus situation “alarming” and said that the country’s health service was at “breaking point”

After a loosening of social conditions in December, virus numbers in Malaysia have recently jumped. Monday recorded 2,232 new confirmed cases, bringing the active total to 28,500 and the running total since early 2020 to 135,000 with 550 deaths.

Golden Screen Cinemas, TGV and other chains posted on their social media accounts announcing closure with effect from Wednesday (Jan 13, 2021). Pre-paid tickets are expected to be reimbursed.

Lazy loaded image
Golden Screen Cinemas

“The effect is to put us back to where we were at the beginning of November,” Irving Chee, GM at GSC, told Variety. Then a previous MCO caused cinemas to close for a month, after which they reopened cautiously. “This time, we expect the MCO to be renewed for two weeks at a time for some months.” Repeated renewal would allow Malaysian authorities to quash the high volume of internal travel that is normally associated with the Chinese New Year holidays in mid-February.

Chee called it a “challenging time” for the industry. He explained that in addition to virus and vaccine conditions needing to improve, the cinema exhibition sector also needs a visible renewal of content supply, especially from Hollywood studios.

The new MCO would allow GSC to operate one of its complexes in Serawak, where the disease is in abeyance. But without major new titles that serves little purpose.

The country has seen one cinema chain, MBO, head for liquidation as a result of the coronavirus impact on the economy, but the sale of its assets has also been delayed by the virus impact. Cinemas are understood to be negotiating with landlords for rent reductions and deferrals.