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Musicals return to stage as social distancing measures are eased

Middle-seat vacancy rule relaxed for performing art halls, cinemas

Middle-seat vacancy rule relaxed for performing art halls, cinemas
Middle-seat vacancy rule relaxed for performing art halls, cinemas

The local culture scene is gearing up for a rebound, after the government announced eased social distancing rules, with a middle-seat vacancy restriction relaxed at performing art venues and cinemas.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism informed local production companies and cinemas that two seats must be left vacant between each party or a seat should be left empty between each audience member under the Level 2.5 social distancing rules.

The government initially required two seats between each audience member at Level 2.5, or around a maximum seating capacity of 30 percent. However, taking into account the online reservation system, the government is now allowing theaters and cinemas to sell about 50 percent of their total seats.

At Level 1.5 and 2, the venues would be required to leave only one seat empty between each party.

From December to January when performing arts halls were required to leave two empty seats between every audience member, the audience occupancy rate was some 30 percent.

The local performing arts scene had argued that it was impossible to stage performances when it cannot sell two-thirds of all their tickets, as the breakeven point is about a 70 percent audience occupancy rate when it comes to large musical productions.

According to the Korea Performing Arts Box Office Information System, performing arts sales dropped from 15.6 billion won ($13.95 million) in November to 5 billion won in December, when strict social distancing rules came into effect.

Sunday’s announcement was greeted by musical companies announcing the resumption of their performances.

Musical “Ghost” at D Cube Arts Center in western Seoul is to reopen Tuesday, after having shuttered for 60 days. Musical “Man of La Mancha” at Charlotte Theater in eastern Seoul is to open Tuesday, too, after three postponements. Musicals “Monte Cristo” at LG Arts Center and “Hope” at Doosan Art Center are also to resume from Tuesday.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)

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