The Malaysian Senior Minister for Security, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has announced that Malaysian cinemas are set to reopen from the 1st of July (next Wednesday). This is of course great news for many Malaysian cinephiles, who have been suffering from withdrawals, desperate to catch a movie in a dark hall on the big screen.
The problem is, like many of the announcements made during various press conferences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also caused a lot of confusion. In his press conference, the minister said that such activities (referring to cinemas, as well as other entertainment activities of this nature), must be limited to 250 people or fewer, depending on the size of the hall.
“If they can only fit fewer than 250 people with 1m social distancing, then it has to be fewer than 250 people.”
This has led many to wonder what that exactly means, given that most theatre halls in the multiplex era we live in right now, have less than 250 seats. Does that mean theatre chains are allowed to sell out their halls that are meant to hold 250 people or less? Does that mean we get to watch Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in a packed house?
Looking at it realistically, probably not. The key aspect we have to keep in mind here is social distancing. There is no doubt that in the days leading up to the 1st of July, theatre chains will receive detailed SOPs from the government, and even if they don’t, they will likely be implementing their own set of SOPs. Some of the big-name players like TGV and GSC have in previous months released statements on social media ensuring the public that they will take into account the safety and wellbeing of their patrons once cinemas reopen.