The four biggest players in Vietnam’s film distribution industry have called on the prime minister to classify the sector as essential since they want to reopen their cinema systems as soon as possible to overcome coronavirus hardship.
The appeal, signed by CJ CGV, Lotte Cinema, Galaxy Cinema, and BHD Cineplex, was sent to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, the Ministry of Finance, and the State Bank of Vietnam in the middle of last month.
The document highlighted the rapid growth of Vietnam’s film industry from 2010 to 2020, with the number of modern movie theaters increasing from 90 to 1,096 nationwide and the quantity of annual moviegoers also soaring from seven million to 57 million.
However, complying with the government’s orders for COVID-19 prevention, the cinema operators have turned off their screens across the country for most of the time since January 2020 under the classification as a non-essential business.
The repetitive suspension has left great impacts on all of the cinema operators, film producers, and customers in the industry, they said in the appeal.
Film enterprises have generated almost zero revenues from movie screening and distribution, while still bearing the costs of venue rentals, salaries, and benefits for employees.
The document asserted that if the current situation continues, all businesses in the film industry, large or small, could fall into bankruptcy, leading to the mass lay-offs of more than 10,000 employees and the downturn of the sector in the future.
The industry enterprises thus pleaded with the government for a number of types of support, including recognizing the film screening industry as an essential business that should be promoted in order to improve the quality of life, reduce health problems caused by psychological issues, and contribute to easing pressure on the health sector in the current COVID-19 context.
They particularly hoped that the recognition would pave the way for the reopening of cinemas soon, as long as the operators ensure coronavirus prevention measures as required by the Ministry of Health.
They affirmed that safety measures can be easily applied at cinemas as moviegoers only focus on watching movies without talking, popcorn and other beverages are served according to individual portions, seats can be kept at a distance, and electronic ticket technology can prevent congregations.
In addition, CJ CGV, Lotte Cinema, Galaxy Cinema, and BHD Cineplex are also seeking policies for loan rescheduling or new preferential credit packages from the national government.
They hope the government extends the deadline for paying social insurance, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and labor union dues for all film businesses until December 31 this year.
They also expect that the government will halve the value-added tax and postpone the payment of payable value-added tax until the end of December 31, and exempt or reduce personal income tax for employees of film enterprises.
Through the government, the enterprises also want real estate firms to create preferential conditions for them, including exempting or reducing rental and service fees during the cinema closure due to the COVID-19 outbreaks and at least six months from the opening of the cinemas.
CJ CGV, Lotte Cinema, Galaxy Cinema, and BHD Cineplex said they understand and respect the government’s pressure in the current battle against COVID-19.
Both from South Korea, CJ CGV claimed on its website that it is the largest film distributor and cinema operator in Vietnam and one of top five cinema chains in the world, while Lotte Cinema is among its rivals.
Galaxy Cinema and BHD Cineplex are both private Vietnamese cinema systems.