I love going to the movies. That’s why I’m a cinema manager at Golden Village Funan. My first encounter with COVID-19, way back before it even had an official name, was the week before Chinese New Year in late January. We had a great festive line-up, with titles like Jackie Chan’s Vanguard and the animated epic Jiang Zi Ya. Our locations had already received the reels and advanced sales were open. It was all hands on deck for the weekend roster, and we were ready for another blockbuster season.
Then the distributors dropped a bombshell: Almost all the new CNY releases would be delayed due to a virus outbreak in China. Within 24 hours, we hustled to reprogramme our screenings and process refunds for customers who had already purchased their tickets.
This marked the beginning of what felt like a horror flick. One by one, the openings of tent pole titles like James Bond’s No Time To Die, A Quiet Place and Disney’s Mulan and Black Widow were postponed indefinitely. As a cinephile, I was undoubtedly immensely disappointed. But I was even more worried about my staff, as a few of them expressed concern over their shifts and the developing uncertainty.
As the outbreak spread across the world, we took measures to safeguard our customers’ well-being by having temperature checks for every staff twice a day and every customer at the usher point, providing hand sanitisers at multiple touchpoints, placing safe-distancing markers and intensifying our disinfecting processes.
Following the Government’s announcement that entertainment venues, including cinemas, would be closed from 27 March, it was no longer business as usual for GV. I specially made a trip to the Vivocity branch to watch My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, and Bloodshot, back-to-back. It was surreal to witness a weekend crowd on a Thursday, as many movie lovers rushed to catch the new releases before the temporary closure.
During the circuit breaker period and after, the managers continued to conduct checks on the premises to ensure our cinemas are always in tip-top condition. We also communicated via WhatsApp and Microsoft Teams conference calls. In addition to performing location errands, I was seconded to the marketing department along with a team looking at ways to improve our Gold Class cinemas. I wrote and edited advertising copy for marketing and conducted research for the Gold Class team.
As a former journalist, it was fun to continue engaging with Golden Village customers through posts on its social media platforms. We even made use of the downtime to intensify our retail merchandising by launching a new e-commerce website, House of Mr Popcorn, where we sell our movie merchandise and combo premiums.
I continued to check in on my staff during the lockdown period. GV had lifted its no-moonlighting policy and rolled out a GV Care Relief Fund to help cushion the financial impact of the shutdown. We also encouraged our staff to apply for the various government grants to tide them over this difficult period.
It is now Phase 2, and we are working very hard towards reopening in the new normal. In addition to SafeEntry and TraceTogether usage, we will encourage our customers to use contactless payment and online booking methods through the iGV app and website. Seats on the online booking page and in the halls will be blocked to enforce safe distancing between viewers. The Gold Class call button will be disabled, and disposable cutlery will be provided. These are just one of many enhanced precautionary measures that we have introduced to ensure that our patrons’ time at GV is a safe and rewarding one.
Going to the movies is one of Singaporeans’ favourite pastimes, next to eating and shopping. The COVID-19 outbreak wiped out all three for pretty much the same number of months. But like big-screen superheroes, I am confident the film industry, and many others, will be able to rise again and we can look forward to a great night out, escaping to the silver screen.