All theaters will reopen by December 1; some in low-risk areas could reopen by November 24.

When the theater’s reopening was approved in Metro Manila earlier this year, the target date was reset from February 15 to March 1, before being canceled on March 6 amid a wave of COVID driven by Alpha and Beta variants.

Some theater operators themselves said at the time that they had no plans to reopen anyway. One of the reasons was the COVID security requirement for the installation of special air filtration and ventilation systems, somewhat similar to those on airplanes.

While the system makes sense to promote public health in the days of highly contagious killer viruses, it takes considerable time and investment to install it in a movie theater.

Another problem for cinema operators was the limit on the number of seats. It also made sense in the days of COVID. As in restaurants, however, the limited seating capacity might not make cinema operations viable.

Then there was the issue of content during the COVID lockdown era, although this has been mitigated with the resumption of film production, especially overseas.

Former Cagayan de Oro congressman Benjo Benaldo, executive director of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, assured us last Wednesday on One News’ “The Chiefs” that there are now enough new documents that can be released. aired on December 1, the date set by the Filipino Cinema Exhibitors Association (CEAP) for the theater to reopen.

Benaldo couldn’t tell us which films are in the works. But in the United States, there have been several new releases that have performed well at the box office since theaters were allowed to reopen recently. Some of the films that would be great to watch on the big screen include the latest James Bond film (the latest with Daniel Craig) “No Time to Die” and Marvel’s “Venom: Let There be Carnage”.

These new releases aren’t on Netflix, HBO Max, and other streaming platforms, so it’s an incentive for people to watch the movies in theaters.

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Streaming services, especially Netflix, have become a big headache for cinema operators. Netflix is ​​one of the few companies to have thrived tremendously during the pandemic.

Myself, I have never been a big fan of television, I have become addicted, to excessive watching to drown my COVID sorrows. Isolated during my nightmare moments, I found solace in Netflix’s features on dogs.

For just P549 per month, you can have premium Netflix on four TV screens at the same time and download on four phones or tablets. There are subtitles, and of course you can watch anything you like.

In comparison, cinema entrance fees vary from P200 to P700 per person. While you don’t need to dress for the theater, you also don’t want to be in pandemic home quarantine mode. And in a cinema, if you go for a toilet break, you miss part of the film; there is no pause or go back.

Some film production companies, overtaken by the competition, have decided that if you can’t beat them, you can join them: they have sold their work to streaming platforms.

Netflix and the other platforms have actually helped keep movie production companies afloat amid theater shutdowns during the pandemic. Profits for producers are lower than regular theatrical performances, but at least there is income earned.

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How will Filipinos react to the reopening of the cinema? The crowd in open-air malls looks a bit like the pre-pandemic vacation crowds. But people still seem to be wary of interior spaces.

Even with the high vaccination rate in Metro Manila, foot traffic in indoor malls remains slow. Over the bank holiday weekend I bought some stuff on sale from a big clothing chain in a mall. There was only one person in the store – up from three or four before the pandemic. Since they reopened after the Delta shutdowns, he told me that sales picked up on weekends, but remained dismal, close to zero, on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Perhaps with the start of underage vaccination and the easing of mobility restrictions for teens, foot traffic will increase in shopping malls.

There is however this lingering worry in many households, however, that children, vaccinated or not, could catch the coronavirus outside and follow it around the house. People have been warned enough that even if children do not get sick, they could put adults at risk, even if they are fully vaccinated, especially the elderly and those with co-morbidities.

The government may need to roll out boosters sooner than planned if it wants to fully restore consumer confidence, if it wants families to dine in restaurants again and travel in time for the peak summer 2022 / Holy Week season. .

People who fear visiting indoor malls are unlikely to sit inside a movie theater – insulated, air-conditioned, and sealed for good acoustics – with complete strangers, even if the distance is strictly observed. .

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The average length of an ordinary film is two hours. Epidemiologists have warned that the virulent Delta variant can be transmitted within 15 seconds of prolonged exposure. Are people willing to take the risk and even pay dearly for it?

In the Netherlands, masking warrants and mobility restrictions have been reinstated amid a recent spike in cases. China, the source of SARS-CoV-2, has once again closed cities amid outbreaks, in line with its COVID-zero policy.

CEAP is launching its “Sa Sine Safe Ka” campaign to attract moviegoers and restore the 336,000 cinema jobs that the group believes have been lost over the past 19 months.

For a safe cinema experience, only people with a vaccination record will be admitted. Body temperature will be taken; masks are compulsory and eating is prohibited. Headquarters are socially distanced; ticket purchases are made without contact; Hand sanitizers are available at the entrance.

Operators say cinema workers will be required to wash their hands every 30 minutes. Indoor ventilation has been improved and a ‘deep clean’ will be implemented between screenings.

In the days of Netflix and HBO Max, people who watch movies on the big screen do so for the experience.

So in December, see you at the movies?