Skip to main content

Take out the spare change. It is the summer movie season. Summer has always been the best time for movie-goers. Studios traditionally make summer the date for the release of their major blockbuster films. This year, is no exception.

In the last two weeks, local movie-goers have been shuttling between cinemas. “Transformers: The Last Knight”, “Despicable Me 3”, “The Mummy”, “Wonder Woman” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge” are some of this summer’s releases.

But that is not all. The Guardian newspaper recently listed over 20 Summer 2017 best movies.

The list includes “Whitney: Can I Be Me”, “The Graduate: 50th Anniversary 4k Restoration”, “The Big Sick”, “The Dark Tower” and “Detroit”.

And if you are fans of Scarlett Johansson and Charlize Theron, these two silver screen bombshells are star- ring in “Rough Night” and “Atomic Blond” respectively.

Fascination for the Movies

Whether it is temporary escapism or being transported into alternate timelines, Malaysians’ fascination with the silver screen has not waned. Uncertain economic outlook, rising living expenses, fewer salary adjustments and job scarcities are not hurting the cinema scenes.

According to the Malaysian Box Office Mojo, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” raked in RM23.6 million. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” already grossed RM19.1 million, while “The Mummy” raked in RM12.3 million. “Baywatch”, the adaptation of the TV hit series in the late 1980s, registered RM5.8 million in ticket sales.

Movies like “Arrival”, “The Great Wall”, “Moana and Before I Fall” have attracted much attention.

Malaysia’s economy grew 5.6% for the January-March period of this year, compared to 4.1% last year, spurring optimism of better days ahead.

Worries of tighter spending, higher prices of daily necessities and additional taxes like the Goods and Services Tax and entertainment tax would make a visit to the cinema less attractive.

Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) CEO Koh Mei Lee was reported as saying last month that the sector is influenced by the number and quality of the movie titles released. The cinema operator expects 400 more planned releases this year.

Koh was reported as saying last month that the cinema sector is influenced by the number and quality of the movie titles released (Pic by Ismail Che Rus/TMR)

“There are seven to eight titles being released every week. There is growth, but it is driven very much by blockbuster movies and we are very fortunate that there’s a very strong slate this year,” Koh was reported as saying.

There are currently 154 cinemas all across Malaysia, with GSC being the largest cinema operator in the country.

Either Blockbusters or Go Bust

Movie-goers are not going to miss their favourite star or a movie franchise. But there is mixed feeling on how much they want to spend. Simple economics is dictating spending — you don’t spend what you don’t have.

Nuno Miguel, an expatriate working in Kuala Lumpur, said cinema ticket prices are affordable. He previously lived and worked in Miami, the US.

“I personally don’t have an issue with the prices. Living on an expat salary has its benefits. And I usually get a soda and popcorn as well,” he said.

But locals are juggling between “wants” and “needs”. Is it worth the money to catch the older Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean”?

“The economy in my opinion is bad. That’s why I pick and choose which movie to watch. I wouldn’t watch everything that comes out. ‘Wonder Woman’ is a good example of a movie worth watching at the cinema,” said Narvin Ethial, an international school teacher.

Skypark Terminal VP Francis Anthony still enjoys going to the movies and quoted MBO cinemas as his personal favourite.

But he said it is fairly common now that people wait for movies to come out on the Internet.

“HD smart TVs are pretty affordable these days, couple that with the Internet and you’re good to go,” he said.

With rising competition and dwindling visitors, cinema operators are trying to outwit each other.

A source from GSC said the cinema chain is constantly looking for new ways to draw people to their doors.

Lotus FiveStar Cinemas Sdn Bhd, founded in 2004 and privately owned by the Lotus Group, has 26 cinemas across the country and drawing 650,000 patrons monthly.

CEO Parthiba Rajha of Codils Media, part of the Lotus Group, told The Malaysian Reserve: “The current economy has affected cinema-goers. We have seen a drop of 20%-30% this year. This is how the cinema booker and movie distributor decide. They come to a conclusion according to the availability and popularity of the movie. Only then do we start deciding how many locations and on how many screens the movie will be played.”

Lotus FiveStar, known for screening Tamil movies, has been screening English, Malay, Tamil, Hindi and Chinese movies as well.

“Only six locations screen Tamil movies as these locations have a minimum of one screen and maximum of four screens. But at the other 20 locations, we screen all the languages,” he said.

Parthiba is hoping that the economy will bounce back and more people will make their way back to his cinemas.

And people in the industry are hoping for a “Wonder Woman” feat to return the magic to the cinemas.

Source: The Malaysian Reserve