Wow. That was quite a ride of information updates that happened the last few days. Last Friday, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) announced that it has allowed a variety of businesses around the Philippines to resume operations so that they can recover from this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Such businesses specified were driving schools, video arcades, theme parks, natural sites, historical landmarks, parks and, most notably of all, cinemas (or movie theaters).
However, the Metro Manila mayors reacted and expressed their opposition against the national government’s decision on allowing cinemas to reopen. Through the media, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos stated that a “majority of Metro Manila mayors agreed not to open as far as cinema is concerned.”
Abalos added that “movie theaters are enclosed and air-conditioned spaces where people stay for more than 30 minutes, conditions that increase the risk of coronavirus transmission.”
To put things in perspective, Metro Manila is composed of many major Philippine cities such as Makati, Quezon City, Manila and Muntinlupa to name a few. Until now, Metro Manila remains under GCQ (General Community Quarantine) status while certain other cities or provinces have been enduring the MGCQ (Modified General Community Quarantine) status. As of this writing, the only cinemas operating here in the Philippines are those located in MGCQ areas.
Here in Metro Manila, movie theaters have been closed since March 2020. Take note of that.
As a result of the Metro Manila mayors’ opposition, it has been announced that the reopening of cinemas has been moved to March 1, 2021, but that is not guaranteed. According to the news release published yesterday at Philippine News Agency, the reopening of cinemas in GCQ areas has been moved to the first of March to allow consultations with local officials, and this is the result of talks with MMDA’s Abalos, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia and Trade Secretary Lopez.
Malacañang stated in the release: The IATF respects the position of mayors, especially those in Metro Manila. That’s why the resolution stated that the reopening of cinemas will be effective after drafting guidelines with local governments particularly when it comes to seating capacity in cinemas.
As you can see, there is still some work needed to be done before Metro Manila movie theaters (or any theaters in GCQ areas in general) can be allowed to reopen. This is why, in my view, the March 1 target for reopening could be missed.
More on the cinemas, I wonder if the Metro Manila mayors and their advisers did enough research about the economics. I understand they want to avoid the risk of people getting infected with COVID-19 within their respective cities, but there is still the need for economic recovery even if cinemas are to operate at less than 100% capacity and efficiency
From an economic point of view, thanks to information released by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, the so-called traditional cinema industry of the nation employed 300,000 workers and had generated revenues of P13 billion BEFORE the pandemic started last year. Because of the pandemic, 2020 theater revenues shrunk down to only P1.3 billion.
Whatever happened to them as a result of the pandemic, 300,000 cinema employees is a figure that should not be ignored nor dismissed so quickly by the mayors and their advisers. Economic recovery is a must.
In an ABS-CBN news report, the cinema operators and movie producers have decided to adopt a so-called wait-and-see approach on the reopening of cinemas in GCQ areas.
Here’s an excerpt from the report:
Although they welcome the easing of quarantine restrictions, local producers and theater operators believe that ultimately, the reopening of cinemas will still be dependent on the clearance of local government units.
Roselle Monteverde and Vincent del Rosario, who helm Regal and Viva Entertainment, respectively, told ABS-CBN News that they have the capability to provide cinemas with movie material, some of which have long been canned. Nonetheless, along with other members of the local producers association, the movie magnates are still awaiting the IATF guidelines and, more important, the guidance of mayors.
And here’s another excerpt, this time about two major cinema chain operators.
Megaworld Cinemas and SM Cinemas, which both control a vast chain of theater chains, told ABS-CBN News that they will wait for the final guidelines of the IATF and local government units.
Bomboy Lim of Robinson Cinemas also told ABS-CBN News that the bottomline is securing the approval of local government units. “Priority din namin ang ligtas na panonood ng tao. Kailangan nating sundin ang lahat ng guidelines including the IATF. Right now, they are still making it.”
Robinson Cinemas, which has an estimated 200 theaters nationwide in its malls nationwide, have not reopened since March 2020.
Over at the City of Manila, the local authorities there announced it will offer free swab tests to movie theater workers within their jurisdiction. Mayor Isko Moreno said that the swab tests are required before the city government allows malls to open their movie houses. Cinema workers specified are janitors, security guards, tellers, ushers, porters, ticket sellers and snack bar attendants to name some. Managers of malls in the city were asked by the mayor to present to the city government their respective preparations for the reopening of their cinemas with public safety in mind.
As I personally observed in shopping malls with cinemas here in South Metro Manila, each of them has established rules and set up special equipment to monitor the health statuses of people entering their respective places. I can imagine local cinemas inside these malls having similar equipment, disinfectant machines, and temperature scanners. It would be helpful if the malls or cinema operators can afford to set up sanitation tunnels (like those in Israel) for moviegoers to pass thru when entering and exiting the movie theater. Watch the video below…
Even though things look unclear, the fact remains is that operators of movie theaters and their employees now have a chance to resume their business and do their part in the recovery economically and socially. How the IATF and the Metro Manila mayors will decide the fate of the cinemas remains to be seen.
If there are any major updates, you will be notified right here at www.CarloCarrasco.com
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