Cinema industry asks for recognition as essential service amid pandemic

Major players in the Vietnam’s cinema industry have proposed that film screening to be included in the list of essential services amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

“During this difficult moment, entertainment activities should be promoted to reduce illness due to mental stress, in turn relieving pressure on the healthcare system,” stated movie distributors and cineplex operators, including Thien Ngan, BHD Vietnam, CGV and Lotte Cinema, in a joint letter sent to the government.

Under this context, all four companies suggested the government should soon allow cinemas to be reopened on condition that COVID-19 counter measures are met.

They explained that in cinemas, viewers only focus on the movie instead of talking, not to mention a safe distance between seats, along with online ticket purchase, movie screening is safe and effective in avoiding mass gathering.

On behalf of the movie industry, these enterprises also called for cutting 50% of value added tax and payment deferral of such tax until December 31, 2021, as well as waiving or reducing  personal income tax for those working in the industry.

In the letter, enterprises argued that during the 2010-2019 period, the movie industry had gone from strength to strength with the number of modern cinemas nationwide going up from 90 to 1,096, a surge of 1,104%.

Meanwhile, the number of movie-goers also rose sharply from seven million to 57 million per year, up 714%, resulting in revenue of VND4.14 trillion (US$179 million) from VND540 billion (US$23.34 million).

“Such strong growth helps create jobs for 10,000 people and represent a big source of the state budget revenue,” it noted.

However, since early 2020 to date, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a suspension of all entertainment activities, including cinemas.

“With zero revenue, cinema operators still have to cover all operational costs. As a result, all are facing the risk of bankruptcy, regardless of their sizes,” stated the letter.