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DEREK CHIN

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Within the space of two hours, an estimated 4,000-5,000 people began entering MovieTowne at Invaders Bay on Saturday, leading to concerns about a possible COVID-19 superspreader event.

Social media videos showed large gatherings outside the buildings, crowded restaurants and even a fight that led to police intervening to maintain order. According to MovieTowne chairman Derek Chin, the sudden influx was hard to control, despite having 15 security officers and three police patrol units.

Speaking on CNC3’s The Morning Brew yesterday, Chin said MovieTowne security would have to work closely with police going forward to ensure strict adherence to the COVID-19 regulations, especially in the periphery of the businesses. He said his cinemas and tenants continue to maintain the recommended protocols of social distancing, hand sanitizing and temperature checks.

“Of course, everybody is going to do what they can, but you know, it is an open area, and there is no way you can control people coming in. There are no gates or fences. Parents drop their children off, and all sorts of things happen. It is a phenomenon that we do have from time to time; I think twice a year. It is not an everyday occasion or occurrence. It is either the Saturday before schools open or the Saturday after school closes. In this case, the clash was the Easter holiday weekend.”

This weekend, MovieTowne premiered the anticipated Godzilla vs Kong at its multiplex. Chin said most of the people observed on Saturday were teenagers and young people.

“Young people just want to go out,” he said.

He likened Saturday’s crowds to the usual rush to beaches on holidays. He said that unless an authority sets up barriers to restrict people or charge an entrance fee, people can walk in freely.

As for the multiplex and other tenants, Chin said they continued to maintain strict COVID-19 protocols.

One of the attractions of MovieTowne is the diversity of businesses. Chin said each store has its COVID-19 protocols. In terms of the cinemas, it operates at 50 per cent capacity for each theatre; holding up to 1,000 people from its 2,500 seating capacity.

“We have it all computerised, where each theatre was allowed to hold 50 per cent. The ticketing was based on that, so if cinema one reaches its 50 per cent capacity as we allow, it would shut down and start selling tickets for Cinema 2 and so forth down.”

Because of the popularity of Godzilla vs Kong, MovieTowne aired the movie in seven of the ten cinemas.

As COVID-19 cases rise, Chin says businesses will continue to ensure they do their part to stop the spread as it is in their best interest. Recalling last year’s shutdown of non-essential businesses, Chin said it was a tough financial year for MovieTowne and its tenants. Even when the government removed some restrictions, there were limitations such as having a 50 per cent capacity and a 10 pm closing time.

As a landlord, he said MovieTowne worked with its tenants, granting discounts up to 90 per cent. He said the businesses were now recovering.