Train To Busan: Peninsula's Singapore weekend box office cheers cinema operators

SINGAPORE – The first weekend of box-office take after the reopening of cinemas on July 13 appears to show that audiences are coming back to cinemas.

The zombie movie Train To Busan: Peninsula steamrolled its way to a weekend box-office record for a South Korean movie in Singapore by taking $962,000 from Thursday to Sunday. The movie, about a team of survivors fighting their way out of the zombie-overrun Korean peninsula, pushes the first movie in the franchise, Train To Busan (2016) with its first weekend earnings of $611,000, to second place. Period action film The Battleship Island (2017) is now third at $460,000.

The stellar performance of Peninsula, which opened on 97 screens, comes despite new hygiene measures such as the limit of 50 persons per screening and a 1m social distance between groups.

Such measures have limited seating capacity to about 25 per cent of normal.

Cinema operators The Straits Times spoke to were also carrying out more intensive disinfecting routines between screenings, leading to fewer screenings.

The resurgence in traffic bodes well for Hollywood blockbusters, which have been held back from release until August and beyond.

Cinemas were closed from March 27 in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but there were signs before then that film-goers were staying away for fear of infection.

A spokesman for Shaw Theatres, which has seven outlets currently in operation, says they “did better than anticipated” over the opening weekend.

Peninsula performed well for them, as did the biographical film Escape From Pretoria.

“We believe patrons will come back to the cinema when there is a popular title and knowing that the cinema has all the necessary safe management measures in place,” the spokesman said.

A spokesman for Cathay Cineplexes, which operates in eight locations, said that “it is still early days but we are encouraged by the response of our guests”.

The strong performance of Peninsula shows that “people are still very much looking forward to the movie experience in the cinemas, that they feel safe and are willing to go through the safety measures for that”.

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