DTI issues new memorandum for the reopening of cinemas in GCQ areas starting March 5, 2021

Do you miss watching movies in the cinemas? The COVID-19 pandemic really brought the movie theater industries around the world to a screeching halt which negatively impacted the way movies were distributed and led to the laying off of many employees who worked in the cinemas.

Here in the Philippines, movie theaters are only operating in cities or provinces which are under the state of MGCQ (Modified General Community Quarantine) which has lesser restrictions compared to GCQ (General Community Quarantine). The thing here is that Metro Manila (which is composed of multiple cities that each has its own government) is still under the GCQ level of control and as of this writing, movie theaters still have not reopened.

Just weeks ago, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) announced it will allow a variety of businesses to resume operations and among them are the cinemas. Unsurprisingly, the Metro Manila mayors reacted negatively.

That was back then. Even though President Rodrigo Duterte refused to shift the entire nation into MGCQ status, movie theater operators (and their employees) in Metro Manila and other areas still under GCQ status now have something to be happy with as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued a new memorandum circular allowing movie theaters in GCQ zones to reopen starting March 5, 2021.

Below is an excerpt from the news article published the other night at Philippine News Agency’s website…

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has issued Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 21-08 allowing movie houses in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) to reopen starting March 5.

The circular stipulates that cinemas in GCQ areas are only allowed to operate up to 25-percent capacity.

However, moviegoers are prohibited to eat and drink, while face masks shall be worn at all times inside the cinema.

A one-meter physical distance on all sides is also required.

“In the event of free seating, cinema staff shall usher customers to their seats to comply with the physical distancing and maximum operational capacity requirements,” the MC said.

On the other hand, cinemas in modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) areas are allowed to operate at 50-percent capacity.

As you can see in the details in the above excerpt, movie theaters in GCQ zones will be allowed to resume operations but with limitations such as 25% maximum capacity (with social distancing implemented) allowed and the prohibition on moviegoers from consuming food and beverages (this limitation will hurt the cinemas’ food and beverage business partners).

As for the requirement to wear face shields inside the cinema, it’s really a detriment because face shields obscure people’s visions and therefore moviegoers won’t be able to enjoy the visuals displayed on the big screen. 

Let’s be honest here…how many people would really want to watch films inside the movie theater without food and beverages, and having to view films with their vision negatively affected by face shields? I can only state that the DTI should reconsider these limitations soon.

It is understandable that safety measures and the health protection for the public are essential for the national authorities to do which explain the limitations for cinemas in GCQ areas. Take note from the excerpt below…

“Following the earlier agreement at the IATF (Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), DTI issued the circular that will guide the implementation of a safe and gradual reopening of more businesses and economic activities. This is part of our mandate to ensure that as more businesses reopen to provide more jobs and sources of income for our countrymen, the strict health protocols are enforced,” DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

Lopez said while the government continues to reopen more economic and business activities, minimum health measures should be strictly implemented.

The thing which we should observe here in the Philippines is how the local government leaders of GCQ areas will react to DTI’s memorandum circular. Be aware that Metro Manila alone is home to lots of movie theaters, including those with 4D and IMAX technologies. These cinemas, many of which are part of shopping malls, have not operated for almost a year now and they badly need to resume their business not just to serve paying customers but also to take care of their employees such as security guards, ushers, ticket booth operators, film projector operators, etc. Do not forget about the businesses that partnered with cinemas to sell popcorn, snacks and beverages. Right now, economic recovery and job creation are of the utmost importance during this time of pandemic.

Now that you have read this, let me ask you what do you think about this news? Is the DTI right to issue the new memorandum? If you are living in a Metro Manila city, how has your local government leaders reacted to the news? When was the last time you watched a movie inside the cinema? Have you contacted your local cinema operator?

Watch out for further updates right here.

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