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Movie theaters hope for return of moviegoers on eased social distancing

This file photo taken last Wednesday, shows social distancing at a movie theater in Seoul. (Yonhap)
This file photo taken last Wednesday, shows social distancing at a movie theater in Seoul. (Yonhap)
South Korean movie theaters are rolling up their sleeves to receive more film buffs as the 2-meter distancing rule in theaters is set to be lifted under the new five-tier scheme next week.

Last week, the South Korean government announced a detailed set of social distancing and stay-in-place mandates to improve antivirus measures and clarify business restrictions in a tailored fashion.

It came as the country has reported around 100 cases of COVID-19 per day for more than a month, having successfully flattened the curve following a spike in the summer vacation season.

With the lowest Level 1 out of the five levels applied to the nation starting Monday, people are allowed to carry out their ordinary lives while wearing masks and following social distancing rules at designated facilities, such as movie theaters.

South Korea's multiplex operators, including industry leader CJ CGV, have already adjusted their online booking system to make all seats available starting Monday.

Due to the monthslong strict social distancing measures, they have kept seating capacities down to 50 percent.

"We've put 100 percent of the seats on sale," a CGV official said. "It might be too early to say that the eased distancing rule would bring all people back to the theaters, but it will help."

He said releases of blockbuster movies, including the caper movie "Collectors," will also help lure people to theaters, along with discount coupons issued by the state-run Korean Film Council.

The local film industry has been hit hard by the protracted novel coronavirus pandemic. The number of attendees slumped 70 percent on-year to 54.5 million over the January-October period from the previous year's 185.6 million.

Theaters have tightened their belts to survive the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, undergoing job cuts and closing some of their branches to handle a financial crunch stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yonhap)
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