Cinemas in Malaysia have been told that they may reopen after nearly a year of closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But operators are keeping the doors closed for a while longer.

“Cinemas in states that are in Phase One of the National Recovery Plan will be allowed to operate with 50% capacity beginning Thursday (Sept. 9, 2021) with only those people who have completed their COVID-19 vaccination allowed to enter the halls,” said government news agency Bernama.

Venues for live events, such as theaters, comedy shows, art galleries and concerts, may also open, but with only 30% capacity, and only for vaccinated patrons.

Cinemas in Malaysia have been mostly closed since March 2020. Two previous reopening attempts were both reversed after new waves of coronavirus demonstrated that the government had not achieved control of the outbreak.

Johns Hopkins University data shows Malaysia recorded 1.88 million cases and over 18,000 deaths. It reports that 16.3 million people or 51% of the total population are now fully vaccinated.
Cinemas opened in the third quarter of 2020, before being shuttered in November. And some reopened between March and April this year.

Cinema operators had lobbied for the latest reopening. But the decision caught them by surprise and has not yet been fully articulated.

“We are allowed to open, but were only informed that we can reopen from today on Tue, two days ago,” A spokesman for the country’s largest chain Golden Screen Cinemas told Variety.

“We are awaiting the revised SOPs and getting cinemas ready for the reopening. Also, we are liaising with distributors on what movies are available, as the censorship board was closed during the lockdown.”

The standard operating procedures may include requiring patrons to carry digital vaccination certificates, contactless ticketing systems, rules on food and drink, and personal protective equipment for staff.

The Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors said that the prolonged closures, totaling around a year, had severely affected the livelihood of more than 20,000 workers in the film industry.