Visitors watch a movie at a dome theatre in a planetarium in Lhasa, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Dec. 14, 2019. An planetarium opened its door to the public for trial operation in Lhasa on Saturday. Photo: Xinhua

Movie theaters in Beijing will have to remain closed before business is allowed to resume, as the capital city continues to tighten management to avoid COVID-19 infections. Many residents say they would rather stay home than take risks even if cinemas are open.

The cinema industry is still not allowed to resume work, said a Beijing senior official, one day after the Beijing Film Bureau and the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control issued a guideline for cinemas to resume work and triggered heated discussion.

“Considering the current epidemic situation in Beijing, the film industry is still not allowed to resume work,” said Chen Bei, deputy secretary general of the Beijing Municipal Government, at a press conference on epidemic prevention and control work in Beijing on Thursday, adding that the previously released guideline was just making preparations for the next step when the epidemic situation allows a resumption.

According to the guideline, moviegoers will have to provide their addresses, ID card numbers, and telephone numbers along with the specific information of the movie they plan to watch, including the theater hall number, seat number and other information.

Theaters must sell tickets in alternate rows and seats so as to keep moviegoers a safe distance away from one another. The guideline triggered heated discussions on China’s social media, with many netizens opposing the resumption of movie screenings amid the epidemic.

A survey conducted on Sina Weibo found that 89 percent of respondents would not go to cinemas at this moment to watch movies even if screenings are resumed. A total of 106,000 users had taken the survey online as of Thursday afternoon. 

“Why not keep theaters closed until the epidemic ends?” “We don’t have to risk everything to see a movie!” are among the most liked comments following the survey. 

Others expressed concern about the theaters’ ID registration system. A movie fan in Beijing surnamed Liu told the Global Times that in addition to safety reasons, she is also worried about possible abuse of personal information. 

For movie production companies, the Beijing guideline said that no more than 50 crew members are allowed to work on site during filming in the city. Cast and crew members who have come from or traveled through epidemic-affected areas will not be allowed to return to work. 

The guideline did not mention a specific time for the full resumption of work in the film industry.

Theater screenings and film production across China have been suspended since the viral outbreak started.