Low weekend turnout at MovieTowne

The Movie Towne complex in Port of Spain. Photo by Jeff K. Mayers
The Movie Towne complex in Port of Spain. Photo by Jeff K. Mayers

Owner of MovieTowne Derek Chin said the opening weekend of the much-anticipated Mortal Kombat movie had a low turnout.

In a phone interview with Newsday on Monday, Chin said there was a substantial difference between this weekend and the usual weekend crowd.

He said the movie opened with an average of 250 people a day from Friday to Sunday. After covid19 restrictions of a 50 per cent capacity were implemented last year, he said, between November and March, the theatre would average 1,200 to 1,400 visitors on a weekend.

“We were picking up,” he said, after being hit hard by the first lockdown in March of last year. “We had a good movie in Kong, but that was still with food.”

Cinemas have been banned from serving food to moviegoers.

Chin was criticised in March when photos and videos appeared online of large crowds at MovieTowne, Port of Spain, as teenagers flocked to watch the movie Godzilla vs Kong.

Chin estimated that about 5,000 people – a usual weekend crowd, even before covid19 – were there on the night of Saturday, March 27. He said, despite the “monster-sized crowd,” the event was incident-free.

With the new restrictions, he said, he plans to implement partial openings. Cinemas will be open from 4pm, and for a little longer at weekends. He also said movie tickets will be offered at a discounted price of $40.

Between November and March, he said, covid19 spread statistics were very low.

“These particular places are being wrongly targeted (and) are not contributing to the spread, which is always the rumour.”

Cinemas and restaurants are a controlled environment, he argued, unlike beaches, which are open spaces and harder to mitigate physical distancing.

He expressed his disappointment that the government did not close the beaches for the Easter weekend.

“They did that too late. They should have been proactive.

“It’s like fighting cancer with cough syrup. We need to attack where the spread is coming from. We’re not planning strategically, so covid19 is not going to stop.”

He said it was a contradiction to implement these restrictions on cinemas and restaurants but allow 50,000 people to go to Tobago for Easter weekend.

“You didn’t stop that, but you’re stopping theatres with 50 per cent capacity?

"I’m not trying to criticise anyone, but it doesn’t make sense.”

He said the spike, which peaked to date at 134 new cases on Sunday, could have been avoided if the government had been more proactive.

Those in the hospitality industry are left confused and fed up.

The authorities have lost credibility, other than the closure of beaches, which should be applauded.”

The restrictions are affecting Chin's 2,000 employees, he complained.

“Restaurants were told not to serve alcohol, and operate at 50 per cent capacity, and close at 10pm. In doing these three things alone, how can restaurants maintain the same business?

"We’ve been good corporate citizens and we are being punished.”

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