MAFE questions why cinemas still closed when gyms, spas, casinos allowed during MCO

The Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors (MAFE) has called for the reopening of cinemas by the Malaysian authorities, saying that cinemas are the “safest form of out-of-home entertainment”. In an official statement, MAFE drew comparison between the continued closure of cinemas and the reopening of several non-essential economic sectors such as spas, gyms, casinos, and recreational fishing—although strict SOPs are required in place for these services.

The association also called the closure of cinemas “unfair treatment”, saying that authorities in neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Japan, and Indonesia have already allowed operations for cinemas to resume.

“The forced closure of movie theatres is crippling the Malaysian cinema industry, which has already lost up to 90% of revenue year-on-year and more than RM500 million in total losses incurred in the year 2020 alone. It is a stark contrast compared with previous years, where the industry has collectively contributed over RM1.08 billion in income and over RM250 million in entertainment tax duties to the country.”

Malaysian cinemas have been partially/fully closed for almost 1 year

Since the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed back in March 2020, cinemas in Malaysia have been partially or fully closed for nearly a year. MAFE revealed that the COVID-19-enforced closures have/will have “long-term closures, long-term effects” on the local film industry. The association also warned that the “crisis” is likely to affect components of the supply chain beyond cinemas—including manufacturing, logistics, and so on.

If the cinema industry collapses, MAFE also estimates that the local Malay film industry, which comprises over 20,000 Malaysians, will be directly impacted. According to Datuk Dr. Yusof Haslam of Skop Productions:

“As a local filmmaker, we have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has staggered the productions of three films including Abang Long Fadil 3Polis Evo 3, and Mat Kilau, in which we have already invested more than RM20 million to produce. Furthermore, strict SOPs enforced on the creative industry have also further impacted all artists and performers involved.”

MAFE also explained that appeals have been made to Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN), Kementerian Kewangan Malaysia (MOF), and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for exemption/reduction of taxes. In their statement however, the association says that the RM100 million booster from Budget 2021 for the creative industry did not apply to the cinema industry. With that in mind, General (Rtd) Tan Sri Datuk Amar (Dr) Mohd Ghazali Dato’ Mohd Seth, Chairman of MAFE, warned:

“The cinema industry cannot sustain closure for much longer and it will undoubtedly collapse, affecting the livelihoods of every Malaysian serving across the entire supply chain. We hope that the Government will seriously reconsider their decision to allow us to reopen.”

As mentioned above, MAFE also claims that cinemas are the safest form of out-of-home entertainment, while assuring that cinema operators have followed the SOP guidelines set by authorities during the pandemic. These include contact tracing, temperature checks, social distancing, as well as PPE for staff and hand sanitisers for customers.

“More than just an entertainment hub, cinemas also play an important role in the cultural development of the nation. In times of distress, it provides the audiences an affordable and safe venue for escapism, as with other leisurely activities like casinos, spas, group exercises at gyms, and individual sports such as golf. With movie-goers following the SOPs and the little contact they have with other patrons, movie-going is no doubt one of the safest out-of-home entertainment places to be.”