RADHICA DE SILVA
MovieTowne’s chairman Derek Chin has debunked a rumour that his chain of cinemas will be closed for four months.
Speaking to Guardian Media exclusively from Miami, Chin said MovieTowne is set to reopen on April 30 when the government lifts its ban on the closure of bars, dine-in restaurants, clubs and cinemas.
Chin explained that initially the idea was to close for four months based on the government’s decisions but this was subsequently changed to one month.
He explained that all the distributors in studios have no choice but to reschedule their releases. He explained that new releases like James Bond would be better sold when the cinemas are fully open and when the population is better able to come out to enjoy the movie.
“Due to social distancing, our restaurants and clubs are closed down. The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) which is the governing body has asked to be included in the bailout. They have no income and we at the restaurants may be able to get a little bit of income through pick up and delivery service. Supermarkets can still open but the Cinemas have not earned a cent since February,” Chin explained.
Even though MovieTowne is closed, Chin said there were still continuous expenses with regard to maintenance and bank loans.
“We have to cut our expenses and do what best we can do. In the United States, they are passing a package of two trillion dollars to help small businesses. We don’t have that luxury in Trinidad. Thank God they adjusted the ban to April but maybe it might be a little earlier than that. We are looking at a week to review,” he said.
Asked how many workers are affected, Chin said about 600 workers from MovieTowne and 2,500 for the Dachin Group which includes all the restaurant chains such as Texas de Brazil, Dachin Italia Ltd and Rizzoni’s Ristorante Italiano.
Chin said in most places, people are sent home with no pay leave.
“We are going to give most of our workers a little stipend and some compensation. This puts us under pressure but we are keeping maintenance and security workers with full pay. The others we are telling to go home, stay home, they get a part of their salary and they don’t have to come to work,” he added.
Chin said he was supportive of the initiatives the government has taken to ensure that COVID-19 is not community spread.
“I have to commend the government they are doing what should and can be done in terms of social distancing and closing schools and businesses where people congregate and also quarantine. We have 60 people and it appears that 40 of those 60 came from one source. If results are true, it seems to be from one particular area. If they maintain that 60 in another week, we are in a better position than many parts of the world,” Chin said.
He urged people to stay home.
Asked whether he believed the government should have called a State of Emergency like other Caribbean islands, Chin said no.
“Not right now as long as it doesn’t get out of hand but if it gets four or five people every day, they may need to call the State of Emergency and they will need to put people in their houses by force,” Chin said.
He said this COVID-19 was unlike anything he had ever seen.
“This is a once in a lifetime and they are doing as much as they can. Be responsible and keep safe,” he said.