Are you ready to go back to cinemas?

Are You Ready to Go Back to Cinemas? – A Goggler Survey

Dept. of Polls and Popular Opinions


Cinemas in Malaysia are set to reopen their doors in just under a week. Come July 1, local theatre chains will face their biggest marketing challenge since trying to get audiences to watch Badang.

How do they convince consumers that it is, once again, safe to sit in a confined space with complete strangers, for hours on end, during a pandemic? Can the public trust that they won’t get sick simply by going to the movies?

It is a monumental task. But one that is essential. Moviegoing was already in decline before the coronavirus hit and theatre chains here had resorted to utilising their halls for everything from hosting corporate events, to stand-up comedy nights, to live-streaming sporting events in order to make up for the shortfall in revenue. Not reopening now could mean not reopening ever.

Add to that the very real fear of triggering a second wave of infections and the situation looks even more dire.

Which is why we thought it useful to have a gauge of public option on the matter. We wanted to know how you were feeling right now about going back to watch movies in cinemas? We’ve also included a list of recommendations for both cinemas and moviegoers. These are based on our own knowledge and experience but driven by the suggestions you gave us in the survey.

Here’s what you had to say.

Malaysians are in no rush to watch movies on the big screen.

When asked how long they would wait before going for a movie, a whopping 42% of respondents said they would wait at least a month, and even then, it would only be if there was something they really wanted to see. 17% said they would wait two weeks. (Which is basically the Malaysian equivalent of “wait and see how.”) And 24% said that they would wait until there was a cure for COVID-19.

Only 17% said they would be happy to go back to cinemas immediately.

Local cinemas are going to have to resign themselves to the fact that most days are going to be slow days. At least for the foreseeable future. Their biggest challenge will be to get a fresh supply of new movies that people are willing to pay money to see.

Blockbusters over local films. That's what'll bring you back to the movies.

Unsurprisingly, a whopping 75% of Malaysians said that the number one reason they would go back to cinemas would be to see a major Hollywood blockbuster. (So there might still be some hope for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.)

Coming in a distant second and third were reruns of recent hits (Avengers: Endgame, John Wick, etc.) and the re-screening of cinema classics (The Godfather, Star Wars, P. Ramlee Movies, etc.) respectively.

Only 33 of the 1020 Malaysians surveyed said that they would risk life and limb to watch a local movie on the big screen.

With so few big budget blockbusters coming out of Hollywood over the next few months, and smaller movies being shunted onto streaming services, what is left for exhibitors to screen? Our local cinema industry is so reliant on movies out of Hollywood, that it will remain crippled until America gets a handle on this pandemic. A look at last year’s numbers will show you that every weekend surge at the box office was due to major releases like Captain Marvel, Dumbo, Avengers: Endgame, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and so on. There’s no denying that these are the movies that are keeping our cinemas alive. And there aren’t enough of them coming our way in the near future.

No kids allowed!

95% of parents told us that they wouldn’t be taking their children to the movies at this time. (The survey was conducted before the National Security Council (MKN) released the latest SOP for the operation of cinemas where they’ve announced a restriction on children under 12 and senior citizens above 60.)

This could spell disaster for movies like Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna which is currently scheduled to be one of the first new releases when cinemas reopen on July 1. This might also prove to be challenging for Disney’s upcoming remake of Mulan (still scheduled for July 24) whose box office success will rely on families and repeat viewings.

Streaming new movies? We don't quite know.

40% to 46% if we were being precise. When asked if they would rather watch a new movie on the big screen now, or at home later, cinemas still held a slight edge (6%) over home streaming. (The remaining 14% told us they weren’t sure.)

We're likely not going to get these digital only releases here...
It’s looking unlikely that we’ll get to see digital only releases like Sponge on the Run (or Scoob!, or The Hunt, or Emma.) on our big screens.

A lot of Malaysians still see value in going to see new releases in cinemas but only by a small margin. A changing mindset within Malaysians could be forming between the immediacy of watching the movie now, or later at home.

Here are some cinema recommendations.
  1. Cinema safety is obviously a global concern. For Malaysians to return to the cinemas, the cinema operators must make sure all of the basic SOPs are in place. This includes:
  • Enforcing physical distancing rules. Patrons should only be allowed to sit in groups as large as two, and there should be at least two seats between each individual/group. Every alternate row should also be left empty.
  • Cinema halls must not exceed half-capacity.
  • Cinema halls must be thoroughly sanitised after every screening.
  • All patrons must be subjected to temperature checks.
  • Hand sanitiser should be made available at the entrances to every hall.
  • Wearing masks in hallways and common areas must be made mandatory. And it should be recommended that moviegoers keep them on during screenings.
  • All staff, especially those handling food, must use masks, face shields, and gloves.
  1. Cinemas can demonstrate how serious they are in following these SOPs by inviting patrons to observe the cleaning that takes place after every screening. Yes, they could make a video, or even do a media walkthrough, but that could come off looking like something that’s merely been staged for the cameras.
  1. Cinemas should stagger screening times so as to avoid creating human traffic jams.
  1. Run fewer advertisements. Yes, we realise this is a critical source of revenue, but we think that audiences will appreciate not being stuck in a confined space for any longer than they need to be.
  1. Ideally, patrons would not be allowed to eat or drink during screenings. (Just imagine all of that flying spittle.) But we know that’s unlikely given how much cinemas rely on overpriced popcorn as a source of revenue. Introducing self-service food counters that only sell prepackaged food and drink might be one way to reduce risk.
  1. Cinemas should consider prioritising cashless payments for both ticketing as well as food and beverage.
God knows we’d love the chance to see The Godfather on the big screen.
  1. Re-screening recent blockbusters and older cinema hits might be a good way to bring audiences back. Studios and distributors have the ability to weather the current crisis, even choosing to further delay popular releases if they feel that audiences aren’t yet ready to return to cinemas. The one thing distributors can do to help the cinema industry is to waive the usual cost involved in re-screening older movies. Maybe even take a cut in their usual ticket share.
  1. Cinemas could offer better deals and packages. God knows Malaysians love a great bargain and enticing them back with cheaper tickets and concessions might just do the trick.
  1. Cinemas should also look into easing the process for patrons to get refunds for tickets already purchased. They could be unwell. Or they may just get cold feet and change their mind about going to the movies.
  1. Home screening options are almost inevitable. A gap still remains in Malaysia and anything that cinema chains can do to get themselves involved at this turning point might pay dividends in future.
What can the public do?

What about us? God knows we Malaysians are the absolute worst when it comes to cinema etiquette. Maybe these new rules, in this new world, might go some way to changing our bad behaviour.

We have no doubt that our cinemas will be taking every possible precaution to ensure as safe an experience as possible when going to the movies. The rest of it is up to us. A good tenet to live by in this age of COVID-19 is to be mindful of your fellow humans. Be a good citizen. Be a good samaritan. We’re all in this together and should do our best, not to just protect ourselves from harm, but also those around us.


We conducted this survey for two weeks between June 10, 2020 and June 24, 2020.

A total of 1020 Malaysians from across the country participated in the survey.

65% of all respondents were from the Klang Valley.

68% of all respondents were between the ages of 18 and 45.

There was a pretty even balance of gender participation. 47% female to 53% male.

Surveys are time sensitive. Opinion polls tell a very specific story. They are a reflection of public sentiment at the particular point at which they are carried out. Which is why we decided to put out this questionnaire just as restrictions in Malaysia had been lifted. We did this for two reasons.

First of all, we felt that any research conducted during the early days of the MCO, when we had little information regarding when life would return to normal, would be skewed by that uncertainty. We believed that the psychological effects of being in isolation, would have an impact on people’s choices and decisions.

We also believed that doing this survey now, as Malaysians are easing themselves back into a regular routine, would also give us an idea as to how important moviegoing was to the general populace. Is it something altogether dispensable in the face of a pandemic? More so with all the streaming options currently available to us?

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