Okay, so cinemas have finally reopened after over 4 (excruciatingly long) months (!) of closure. As an avid moviegoer and a movie reviewer myself, four months certainly felt like an eternity. To recap, GSC was the first local cinema chain to resume business on 16 September. Their closest rival, TGV, however, chose to officially reopen a week later on 23 September.
The Waiting Game
If memory serves me right, the last time I watched a movie in the cinema was the action thriller called “Those Who Wish Me Dead”. You know, the one where still-looking-good-at-45-years-old Angelina Jolie plays a smokejumper. That was back in early May before the government made the announcement, where cinemas in MCO areas will be closed. It was just the beginning until the eventual nationwide lockdown a.k.a. MCO 3.0 came into effect. Many sectors were unable to continue their businesses until further notice. And needless to say, cinemas happened to be one of the unfortunate victims forced to bite the bullet.
As if life wasn’t frustrating enough due to the [insert choice of swear word here] pandemic, the lockdown took longer to lift than I expected. Weeks became months after months and so on. Coupled with the fact that then-prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the country’s 4-phase National Recovery Plan, cinemas were only allowed to resume business in Phase 3. Provided if the average daily cases managed to fall below 2,000. Or if at least 40% of the population received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
At the time when the government announced that cinemas were allowed to reopen beginning September 9 onwards, the daily cases remained at five figures. Even with the revised SOP which stated that only fully vaccinated individuals were allowed to enter cinemas, it was met with mixed responses on social media. While some netizens were excited and couldn’t wait to enjoy movies in the cinemas, others figured it was a bad idea.
Lack Of “New” Shows
Back to cinema reopening, they were showing movies like “Black Widow”, “Jungle Cruise” and “Malignant”, all of which were already available to be streamed online in their HD glory. Of all the movies, I chose to watch “Black Widow” during the first weekend of the cinema reopening. Typically, a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster like “Black Widow” would attract sizable crowds.
But the thing is, the movie was already available online a few months prior (early July, to exact) via Disney+ with Premier Access in the US. And by releasing the movie online, that means you could watch it illegally. If you know where to look, of course, but that would be an unethical thing to do.
With the majority of people claiming that they have already seen “Black Widow” online (you could read some of their comments on GSC and TGV’s social media posts), not everyone would want to revisit the movie in the cinema. That first weekend where I went to watch “Black Widow” in PJ, the cinema hall was quite empty with only a few audience members.
But There’s Hope After All
On 30 September, we were supposed to finally get to witness the long-delayed “No Time to Die”, the James Bond movie that would mark Daniel Craig’s swan song in the role of 007. Besides, this is one of the movies which is not available for streaming and will only be released exclusively in cinemas. As a fan of James Bond movies, I bought the IMAX tickets via advanced sales. And guess what, the movie was unexpectedly postponed “due to unforeseen circumstances” and all tickets purchased have to be refunded. Whatever the reason is, I have to say it was a huge, missed opportunity not to capitalise on the moment. The moment where people would fill the halls (at limited capacities, of course) and help drive the cinema business.
With “No Time to Die” postponed to late November instead, I’m glad that Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings” was moved up from its initial October 7 to September 30 release date. Having seen the movie earlier during the press screening, it was greeted with overwhelmingly positive responses (and yes, there was quite a number of bloggers and those from the media outlets). After all, the movie is currently very popular in the US alone (already spending 4 weeks in a row at the top spot in the box-office chart at the time of writing). And just like “No Time to Die”, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is only available exclusively in cinemas.
So, What’s The SOP Like?
As mentioned earlier, only fully vaccinated individuals are allowed to watch movies in cinemas. And as expected, there will be cinema staff manning the front entrance to ensure you show your digital certificate via MySejahtera before scanning your entry and of course, your temperature. When it comes to buying snacks and drinks from the concession counter, you have to purchase them online beforehand. This would help reduce the human traffic (read: long queue) near the concession counter.
As for the rest, it was the same one-seat-apart rule while the twin seats were reserved for those from the same household.
My Overall Experience Going Back To The Cinema
I have to admit there’s a nagging sense of paranoia upon heading back to the cinema after over four months long. The daily cases, the prolonged lockdown, the cabin fever-like effect of staying at home more often than usual are part of the underlying problems here. But I’m glad I managed to get over it and besides, life has to go on and living in fear isn’t going to do me any good in the long run.
So, what about you? Are you back watching movies in the cinema already or would you still choose to stay away until it’s safe enough to do so?