How Covid-19 may change the way we go to the movies when cinemas reopen in Singapore

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Covid-19 has changed the way we live our lives. For one, people are heading out less due to social distancing measures, and circuit breaker put a halt to social gatherings, especially since entertainment venues were forced to close since March.

As local coronavirus cases in Singapore decline, the nation will enter into Phase 2 of reopening, but life may not return to normal as it was pre-Covid-19. Instead, precautionary measures are likely to still be in place to ensure no spike in cases or emergence of clusters. 

We've touched on how shoppingair travel and hotel stays may see a change in the way they operate; similarly, we expect that going to the movies will not be like before

While it's not known when entertainment venues will reopen, here are some changes that you might expect to see during the new normal once restrictions are lifted.

Reduced capacity in halls

With capacity limits still imposed, what used to be a hall at full capacity during peak hours or during the opening night of a movie may now change, with the number of cinema-goers significantly reduced. 

Theatres in California have been given a list of guidelines to adhere to by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) when family entertainment centres reopen this month.

One of it is "movie theatres must reduce capacity to just 25 per cent or a maximum of 100 theatregoers, depending on which is lower."

"We are closely observing the global situation and learning from cinemas around the world as they cautiously reopen to the public - such as the importance of clear communication about the consumer experience, so that we can manage expectations," said General manager of The Projector Prashant Somosundram to The Straits Times last month.

Fewer movie screenings in a day

Since the outbreak of the virus, sanitation has been at the top of our minds as studies have shown that the virus can stay on surfaces for hours and days on end. 

Phase 2 or 3? Whichever it is, we take our regular cleaning seriously! Don't play play uh. 🤨 #KeepCleaning #BehindTheScenes #CantWaitToSeeYou #GVClean #GV

Posted by Golden Village Mr Popcorn on Thursday, May 21, 2020

It used to take just minutes for the staff to turn over a hall for the next movie screening, but it may now take more time to sanitise the railings, door handles, chairs and other amenities in the movie hall before a new batch of moviegoers can enter.

The number of movie sessions in a day may also be reduced as efforts to keep the cinema clean are ramped up.

SafeEntry, temperature checks, mask and hand sanitisers

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SafeEntry is now widely used whenever we enter into a shop or the supermarkets, likewise, we may be asked to check in digitally with our particulars before entering the cinema hall. 

Before entertainment spots in Singapore were ordered to shutter temporarily, anyone who had a temperature of 37.5 degrees Celcius or higher was refused entry into Golden Village's cinema halls and received a refund for their tickets. This could be the protocol once cinemas reopen for business again.

Needless to say, wearing of masks will still be mandatory in cinemas as long as the law stands, and sanitisers may be provided at ticketing counters, entrances and exits of all movie halls. 

Stricter policies on eating and drinking

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Just a few months back, we could buy a popcorn set and enjoy it with our friends during a movie, but since the coronavirus is known to be passed through respiratory fluids and saliva, eating and drinking may be restricted in cinemas. 

Like how it is on flights currently, food may only be prepackaged, with sharing of food and drinks discouraged.

I can already hear cheers from people with friends who are always freeloading on their popcorn and nachos. 

Seats at least a metre apart

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Another measure that cinemas implemented even before they closed is enforcing one-metre gaps between each taken seat.

The CDPH said cinemas may also be required to reconfigure or remove and block off seats. They also advised "seating every other row or blocking off or removing seats in a 'checkerboard' style (use each row but make sure no one is directly behind other patrons) so that distances are maintained in all directions".

Siting with members of the same household may be allowed, but if you're going with a friend or on a date, you might not be able to cuddle up during the movie. So if you've always been afraid of people judging you for going to the cinemas alone, you don't have to worry about being stared at anymore.

Tickets with allocated entry times

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CDPH has also suggested using a reservation system to stagger the timings of when movie-goers arrive. Designated arrival times may be stated on the e-tickets, so people don't crowd outside the halls to enter.

The Projector is also working on a pre-ordering system, said Somosundram. This will also enforce contactless payment methods instead of handling cash transactions, so that there will be a lower risk of transmission between staff and guests.

Disposable or washable seat covers

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To help speed up the process of cleaning and disinfecting, the CDPH added that US cinemas could consider the use of disposable or washable seat covers that can simply be replaced after each use. 

These seat covers could also be designed to slide over the arm rest, minimising contact of surfaces that may be infected by the virus. They could also be used "on porous surfaces that are difficult to properly clean".

Limiting post-show bathroom visits 

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We all know how nearby toilets outside of the cinema halls are always crowded after each screening session. In line with social distancing, people may have to stagger their toilet visits and only a limited number of people may use the toilet at one time. 

With all these possibilities of how going to the movies may be like post-Covid-19, it may still be an enjoyable experience with your friends or date, but it may not be as fun (or easy) as before. 

melissagoh@asiaone.com