Manila cinemas reopening kind of reminds me of the time airports, malls, and restaurants went back to operations amid relaxed quarantines. While they were initially seen as non-essential, even still precarious for the most part, people learned to live with them. Of course, so long as minimum safety standards were in place and people followed them.
The local film business is one of the many industries severely affected by COVID-19. People debated about cinema safety just about as much as safety in travels. According to a report by Manila Times, the pandemic displaced at least more than 700,000 workers in the industry which, in turn, lost about ₱13 billion in revenues by the end of 2020.
While alternatives like digital film festivals, online streaming platforms, and outdoor cinemas like those in Pasay and Pampanga emerged, they only partly answered the problem. With their floundering flow of income, Filipino traditional cinema workers struggle to make ends meet. While former moviegoers with limited resources worry about having to keep up with these online alternatives for their recreation of choice.
Cinema safety precautions to observe
Fast forward to a world where going to cinemas is deemed more acceptable — like other recreational facilities, practising cinema safety can’t be stressed enough. Considering the enclosed nature of many of these establishments, that makes it even more important to abide by the cinema health protocols like the following.
1. Book your tickets online
Regardless of genre preferences, none of us probably looked forward to queuing for movie tickets even before the pandemic, particularly in more popular cinemas in the Philippines. On the contrary, online ticketing proved to be an inconvenience amongst the less tech-savvy movie house crowds.
But while it was just an option then, purchasing tickets online is definitely something you should train yourself in doing when watching movies in a theatre. More importantly, it reduces the amount of paper used in printing traditional tickets. That’s a lot less waste, queues, and correspondingly, all-around safer transactions for these cinemas and moviegoers!
2. Avoid peak hours and locations
When it comes to being up to date with the latest films, big cinemas almost always have the edge over smaller theatres. This is something you won’t easily have the privilege of enjoying legally in the online world or even existing outdoor cinemas in the Philippines.
For die-hard film buffs, the trick is to simply avoid peak hours and days. Visit during the weekdays, and as much as possible, during the opening or closing hours of the cinema. If not, go for less crowded branches of your favourite cinemas, but don’t expect the services to be the same. Other than that, with fewer people and less exposure, cinema safety shouldn’t be as much of an issue.
3. Don’t bring snacks
As with most situations these days, the less you bring when going out, the less you’ll have to worry about sanitising everything later on. The same is now true about movie snacks. As per the Department of Trade and Industry, moviegoers are actually prohibited from eating and drinking when inside the cinema. So it’s not like you really have a choice.
The best way around this is to fill yourself up before or after watching a movie. In fact, you can even prepare classic movie snacks at home or avail of movie snacks delivery such as those by Taters Entertainment Snacks and Snackorama.
4. Sanitise your seats
Treat cinema seats as doorknobs, gym equipment, and all other surfaces you encounter in public spaces. But not like these things, which you only touch for a few seconds, the physical contact you make with your chair lasts for several minutes to a few hours. It’s the single most crucial part of your entire cinema experience that you have to watch out for the most!
As a courtesy to fellow moviegoers, make sure that the disinfectant you’ll be using is unscented or at least one that doesn’t have a pungent odor. If it’s not too much, you can even bring a blanket or something to cover your seat that you can easily wash or dispose of afterward.
5. Wear a portable air purifier
Some say air purifier necklaces are effective, others say they’re not. Once and for all, these portable air purifiers work only as an added protection, to clean the air around you to a certain extent. However, they’re not recommended for use on their own to kill coronavirus.
What this basically means is that you’ll still need to wear your face mask and other protective gear, if any, upon entering a cinema. If you do plan on buying a portable air purifier, consider those that come with HEPA-integrated filters known to efficiently sift out certain airborne particles.
6. Opt for shorter films
For fans of longer-duration films (e.g. science fiction, drama), this might be a bit of a problem. But for the rest of us who go to the movies just for the experience, as a bonding activity with a loved one, or for whatever emotional satisfaction it brings, now would be the best time to appreciate short-form flicks. Not for the beauty of many of them alone, but also the kind of cinema safety it offers.
The faster you can get out of a cinema, the more you can avoid further exposure to COVID-19. The same can even be said about flying on a commercial plane, dining inside a restaurant, or working in a physical office.
7. Follow minimum safety standards
This goes without saying, really. But even after you’re settled in your seat and there are plenty of other moviegoers in the auditorium with you, the first course of action is to keep that face mask on. Along with social distancing, it’s the most basic form of cinema protection you can take.
Other cinema safety protocols for theatres in Metro Manila include having a StaySafe PH QR code for contact tracing, following the one-way traffic flow when going inside and leaving the cinema, and not moving around unnecessarily during the movie’s duration. Groups large enough to pay for private screenings are also encouraged, as long as physical distancing and capacity requirements are met.
It’s not required, but for post-cinema safety, why not even get tested for COVID-19? Just because going to cinemas in Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines is allowed, it’s not a ticket to mess around your main defenses during a pandemic. Despite it all, have fun watching, all the while following these basic cinema safety practises!
Featured image credit: SM Cinema | Official Facebook Page