Cinemas Implement Social-Distancing Measures In Response To COVID-19

Cinemas are cutting seating capacities and introducing gaps between seats.

Following the Ministry of Health’s social-distancing advisory issued last Friday (Mar 13) to limit the spread of COVID-19, cinema operators here are incorporating social-distancing features in their seating plans.

MOH’s new guidelines stipulate that entertainment venues “put in place measures to reduce close contact by patrons/customers, where possible”.

To do that, they should “limit the number of visitors at any one time, and/or increase spacing among visitors”. Also, seats have to be at least one metre apart.

Since Monday (Mar 16), Shaw Theatres, which runs nine cinemas, has instituted a seat-separation rule whereby there’s a minimum two-seat gap between every two or three seats.

Look at the seating plan of 59-seat Hall 4 at Paya Lebar Quarter: half of the hall is blocked out (indicated in brown), and what remains are clusters of 2 or 3 seaters. Great for couples on a date night. Even better if the couple is hanging out with their clingy BFF.

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Looks cozy: At Shaw cineplexes, the dark colour seats are off limits to ensure there's a two-seat gap between you and the next patron. 

A Shaw Theatres spokesperson informs via e-mail, “We have reduced some sessions at all our theatres so that more time can be allocated between screenings for thorough cleaning of the halls since mid-February.”  

He adds, “Given that all Shaw Theatres seats are non-fabric, it is thus possible for us to wipe down and disinfect all occupied seats as well as those next to them based on ticket sales on seating plan.”

“As such, during this period of time, we strongly advise all our patrons to remain in their assigned seats while enjoying a movie at any of our Shaw Theatres cinema.”

In other words: don’t anyhow swap seats or else it defeats the purpose of social distancing.

Over at Golden Village, which runs 13 cinemas, when patrons buy tickets either online or via the automated ticketing machines, the booking system will automatically block off the neighbouring seat.

We tried booking a single seat next to a couple but was greeted with a message, “We left a seat gap for social distancing reasons. Please choose another seat.” Thanks for the reminder. 

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Automatic warning: When you're buying tickets at Golden Village cineplexes and if you happen to pick a seat next to one that's been taken, you'll be reminded to find another seat. 

Prior to this move, GV rescinded its no-single-seat gap rule to encourage patrons to minimise contact by sitting away from other moviegoers.

Filmgarde Cineplexes, which runs three cinemas, has also implemented social-distancing plans advised by MOH.

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Go the distance: The new seating plan for one of halls at Filmgarde Cineplex Bugis+. Says a Filmgarde Cineplexes spokesperson: "We implemented the additional seat separation policies in line with the new measures announced by the authorities last week with regards to limiting the size of gatherings and social distancing." 

On Wednesday (Mar 18), Cathay Cineplexes — which operates eight cinemas — and rolled out social distancing measures by reducing the number of seats to be sold at each hall. They also “strongly encourage [the patrons] to leave at least two-seat gap between other moviegoers.”

Elsewhere, WE Cinemas at Clementi has also reduced seat capacity in each hall and added gaps between seats.

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Mind the cap: A regular hall at WE Cinemas now looks like a a premium hall. 

Besides said measures, all cinema chains are also following government-recommended precautionary practicises such as compulsory temperature-taking, increased frequency of cleaning and disinfection, availability of hand sanitisers, and turning away patrons with temperatures of 37.5°C or more.

[Note: This story was updated on Mar 19, 2020.] 

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