Nood tayo ng sine!

By: Liza Diño-Seguerra
The columnist at the FDCP Cinematheque Center Manila

A guide to watching in cinemas safely

Cinemas are back! I developed my love for watching films in the cinema at an early age. As my mother was a theater checker, I used to sneak inside theaters to catch films. As a film worker now, I know how hard filmmakers, producers, actors, and the whole production team work to produce a movie and the long journey to getting it to the big screen for audiences to enjoy.

The closure of cinemas in the country greatly affected the ecosystem of our local film industry. Cinemas play a huge role in the generation of revenue of the industry. The exhibition of content is the last step in the process of filmmaking. This is where the filmmakers' blood, sweat, and tears will bear fruit through the finished film being exhibited in the industry's platforms such as movie theaters. Without a platform to showcase films, producers will not be encouraged to create content. That's why even when shoots restarted in May 2020, only 25 percent of productions resumed.

Since the pandemic hit us, the film production sector lost P16 billion in income, while the cinema sector has lost P21 billion, affecting around 760,000 film and audiovisual workers.

It's been a week now since the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) finally allowed in its guidelines the operations of cinemas after a 19-month hiatus, which is among the longest cinema closures in the world. As excited as I am to flock with the rest of the moviegoers to the nearest theater to sit back and enjoy the nostalgia, the public servant in me wants to make sure that protocols are clear and in place to make sure that the return of the public to movie theaters will be safe and enjoyable.


The road to reopening

On August 4, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) officially presented to the IATF its proposal to reopen the cinemas. We showed data on the industry's losses since the onset of the pandemic. We introduced the best practices from the rest of the world as they slowly resumed operations of their cinemas through health and safety protocols.

More recently, FDCP also had a meeting with Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez last October 8, where the Agency highlighted how much impact the closure of cinemas have had not just on cinema workers but film workers as well, because producers need the cinemas to be able to screen their films.

Our local cinemas have been readying to operate and were just waiting for the go-ahead from the national government. Still, cinema operators deliberately chose not to do so yet, simply because they are aware that this needs to be done right by determining the standard protocols that need to be administered appropriately.

In support of this, we reached out to government agencies. We provided inputs on the DTI's public health standards to be released for our cinema operators and employees to follow to make sure we rebuild the confidence of moviegoers to watch inside the cinemas despite being in the middle of a pandemic.

The #NoodTayoNgSine online campaign advocates for the safety of watching films in cinemas.

'Nood Tayo ng Sine'

Since last year, FDCP has activated its "Nood Tayo ng Sine" program, a campaign to bring back the audience to the cinemas safely.

By coordinating with the IATF and the DTI, we provided the following inputs and recommendations on protocols for the resumption of cinema operations.

  • Only fully vaccinated individuals with no Covid-19 symptoms, subject to a Covid-19 vaccination card presentation, are allowed to watch in indoor cinemas and movie theaters.

  • Face masks must be worn at all times.

  • Patrons must be seated at least one meter or one seat apart from others (in all directions).

  • Ensure adequate air exchange in enclosed areas through various engineering controls.

  • Airflow shall be controlled to ensure indoor CO2 concentrations will be maintained.

  • There should be staggering movie start times and reduced screenings to minimize crowds in the lobby and queuing areas.

  • No eating inside the cinema.

  • Disinfection of the venue before and after movie screenings.

  • Designation of a health and safety officer who, at all times, will be physically present in the establishment to ensure that government-imposed protocols and limitations on venue and seating capacity are strictly followed.

  • Encourage the use of contactless transactions in ticket purchasing.

The #NoodTayoNgSine online campaign advocates for the safety of watching films in cinemas.

An appeal to prioritize Filipino films

As we reopen our cinemas, it is equally important to champion the return of local films on the big screens. Our film industry needs the full support of our moviegoers because this will not only revive the sector and restore thousands of jobs, this support will also manifest in the future works of our filmmakers.

I hope that the respect and recognition that our local films and filmmakers receive globally will also be experienced in the country, for these Filipino films reflect our own stories and culture.

While we continue to push for policies and create programs to support and protect the filmmakers and workers of our local film industry, we also advocate for the safety of watching films back in the cinemas through our online campaign, #NoodTayoNgSine, to remind the audience of its importance and ensure the safety of the resumption of local cinemas.

Notes from the Chair
The Sunday Times Magazine  - The Manila Times

Notes from the Chair is part of the Arts Awake section of The Sunday Times Magazine published by The Manila Times. Click HERE to view the article on The Manila Times website.