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Local cinemas ready to reopen with ‘new normal’ guidelines

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Theatres are expected to adhere to strict safety and virus preventon measures if they are allowed to reopen, including having mask and social distancing policies in place. Photo supplied

Local cinemas ready to reopen with ‘new normal’ guidelines

It has been more than four months since moviegoers have been able to experience the thrill of a horror film or comedy relief while passing around popcorn and sipping ice-cold soda at their favourite theatre.

Phen Lina, a once avid moviegoer, tells The Post that “since the cinemas closed, I haven’t been able to keep up with many new releases. This is one of the experiences I miss the most.”

Movie theatres in Cambodia will open soon, according to Phanny Lao, the general manager of Westec Media Limited, the biggest film distributor in Cambodia.

The company distributes to all cinemas in Cambodia and have a two-week slate of releases ready to go once theatres reopen.

Lao tells The Post, “We do not have a specific date yet, but we’re hoping that cinemas will be allowed to reopen before the end of the month.”

The Closet, The Cave, Necromancer, Train to Busan 2: Peninsula, Mulan, The New Mutants and A Quiet Place Part II will all be shown in theatres once they reopen.

“We have a list of movies lined up for release once cinemas are allowed to reopen. We’re looking at eight new titles in the first two weeks and more to come in the following weeks,” she says.

Online streaming platforms have disrupted the movie industry, with more people turning to their laptops for entertainment instead of travelling to theatres.

Some moviegoers may be concerned that movies they’d like to see in the cinema will only be available online.

For Lina, watching a movie in the theatre is an experience that can’t be replicated on smaller screens at home.

“While some people turn to Netflix and other online streaming platforms, I prefer not to.

“The experience of seeing a movie on your small screen can never be compared to the big screen with my favourite popcorn and sharing screams and laughter with other people in the big hall.

“I love going to a movie as a family, so most of my choices are Disney and animation. I’m looking forward to seeing Mulan and Peter Rabbit 2,” she says.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Mulan is one of the movies expected to be released in the city when theatres reopen. AFP

Lina typically brings her husband and two kids to the cinema with her. “If I go without my kids, I’d watch a zombie movie like Train to Busan 2,” she says.

To ensure moviegoers’ experiences remain unique and special, Westec Media will remove movies which have streamed online from its list.

Lao says: “The pandemic has affected a lot of movie titles, causing them to be postponed or removed from theatres. However, movie titles that are scheduled to be released in cinemas will not be shown on Netflix before that.

“Titles that are available on streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ etc. have probably been removed from theatrical releases.

“We think audiences will still enjoy watching a movie in the cinema as it is a different experience, especially with premium formats like IMAX, ScreenX, Atmos and 4DX.”

Lina is more concerned about contracting the virus in cinemas than which movies will be playing. She says she wonders if cinemas will follow strict guidelines to keep everyone safe.

“Even though I’m a regular moviegoer, I’m not ready to walk into a cinema unless something safe has been done. Like social distancing, strict hygiene, and a strict mask policy.

“I’m sure if cinemas are to be reopened, they will be required to follow these practices. I believe they will do that, but you know some people are careless and can pose a risk to others if they don’t cover their face,” Lina says.

Responding to these concerns, Lao says all cinemas will probably enforce guidelines set by the ministry including temperature checks of guests at entry, providing hand sanitisers, social distancing in halls and common areas, frequent cleaning and sanitisation and ensuring all staff and guests wear masks.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cineplex employees prepare social disancing cues at a Phnom Penh theatre. Photo supplied

She says that all staff will be trained in the precautionary measures, which include leaving gaps in seats and maintaining distances in common areas.

“We don’t dictate what audiences do when they’re watching a movie inside the hall but cinema staff will ensure that audiences follow the safety precautions,” Lao adds.

She admits that reopening will come with certain challenges.

“From the distributor’s point of view, our challenges include scheduling new movie titles to be released.

“As we do not have a fixed reopening date for cinemas yet, we face challenges in setting movie release dates as well as finalising movie materials. On top of that, most Hollywood titles have been postponed to the following year,” she says.

Lao adds that for cinemas, the main challenges will be attracting audiences back and ensuring they keep each other safe.

With a fresh crop of movie titles lined up, she predicts that audiences will return once they are given the chance.

“We think the new normal with new SOPs will not hold back audiences from watching a movie in cinemas. In fact, the new safety precautions and practices will give audiences peace of mind,” she says.

Lina is going to take a patient approach with her return to cinemas. “Let’s see how it goes. I might not be the first one to line up, but I’ll definitely go later when I see cinemas and moviegoers adapt to strict hygiene [practices] ,” she says.

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