SINGAPORE: Cinemas in Singapore are eager to increase their operating capacity, although it will be "challenging" for smaller cinema halls to reach the fully allowed capacity of 50 per cent, as announced on Wednesday (Sep 23).
From Oct 1, large cinema halls with more than 300 seats will be allowed to have up to three zones of up to 50 patrons each, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday.
Other cinema halls will be permitted to increase their capacity to 50 per cent of their original operating capacity, or maintain the current limit of up to 50 patrons per hall, subject to COVID-19 safe management measures
Cathay Cineplexes is “grateful” for the easing of the restrictions on cinema hall capacities, said a company spokesperson in response to CNA's queries.
It will be implementing a new seating arrangement from Oct 1 based on the increased capacities allowed and safe management measures, added the spokesperson.
“This does mean that some of our cinema halls will be operating at less than the allowed 50 per cent capacity to accommodate a safe distance seating configuration,” said the spokesperson.
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Independent cinema The Projector said it would be increasing its capacity from Oct 1 from 50 to 80 patrons.
“For smaller sized layout theatres of 200 like ours, the 1m distancing rule makes it challenging to reach the full allowable 50 per cent, but every little helps,” said general manager Prashant Somosundram.
In line with MOH recommendations, patrons at The Projector must leave two chairs empty around each group. Patrons can also only sit together in groups of five or fewer in the cinema foyer and halls, he added.
“We have increased the time between sessions to support social distancing in our foyer and to facilitate thorough cleaning of the halls between screenings. We are also implementing reduced cinema sessions on weekends until further notice,” he said.
“Our priority remains with public health and safety and we will be vigilant in maintaining the safety measures. We will continue to monitor the MOH guidelines and adhere to the requirements.”
Since Cathay’s cinemas reopened in July, guests have been “graciously observing” the safe management measures, including waiting for staff to disinfect surfaces, wearing their face masks and remaining in their assigned seats, the spokesperson noted.
"Our top priority is towards the health and safety of our cinema patrons as well as our staff. So we feel that increasing the cinema capacities progressively is the responsible thing to do," the spokesperson added.
Cinema halls across the island first reopened in July after remaining closed for nearly four months during the pandemic.
However, the 50-patron limit and safe distancing measures meant that about 90 per cent of the seats remained empty. More cleaning sessions between showtimes also meant fewer screenings and fewer tickets available.
“We are pleased with the (easing) of restrictions as it indicates that Singapore is gradually opening up,” said a Golden Village spokesperson.
“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.”