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August 12, 2020

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Cinemas get okay to fill 50% seats from Friday

LOCAL cinemas can operate up to half of their capacity from Friday, with restrictions relaxed from the current 30 percent amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Multiple cinemas in Shanghai as well as those in Chengdu in the northwest Sichuan Province said yesterday that they’ve received such a notice from authorities.

The two-hour restriction on viewing period is also lifted.

According to the notice is­sued to cinemas in Chengdu, the sales of drinks will also be restored at theaters, but movie­goers are not allowed to eat or drink during screenings.

Cinemas across China re­opened on July 20 after the nation’s film administration gave the green light, following a nearly half-year suspension due to the pandemic.

Measures have been put in place to ensure safety of cine­goers. Masks must be worn at all times, cinemas can only sell 30 percent of their seats, and popcorn and other snacks and drinks are not allowed.

The restrictions have not put off locals who have waited nearly six months to head back to cinemas. But the 30 percent restriction is a dampener on ris­ing audience demand, said the marketing director of a major cinema chain brand with over 30 cinemas across Shanghai.

“The relaxed restriction will mainly benefit the cinemas with small-size screening halls,” said the director who asked to be anonymous.

“Most of the halls with fewer than 100 seats have been fully packed under the 30-percent re­striction since reopening,” he said, adding that the number of moviegoers is gradually rising.

The lifting of the two-hour restriction will offer better watching experience for audi­ences as well as allow cinemas to arrange more movies every day, according to the director.

Currently, cinemas must suspend the screening by five minutes every two hours in the middle of films. “The suspen­sion has actually prolonged the length of each film,” he said.

The films scheduled for Friday release include the 152-minute 4K repaired version of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and the 147-minute “The Eight Hundred.” Online ticket sales for the two films have hit nearly 7 million yuan (US$1 million).


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