Cinemas Renting Out Their Screens To Gamers To Offset COVID-19 Losses

In South Korea, cinemas have started renting out their screens to gamers. With most cinemas restricted to only 50% of their capacity due to coronavirus restrictions and fewer movies being released, CGV, the country’s largest movie theater chain, decided to rent out its screens to offset their loss of revenue.

Eui Jeong Lee, who rented out a 200-seat cinema auditorium to play a video game with three of her friends, told the BBC that the sound quality was incredible. “The sound of the gunshots is just so vivid, and when something flew directly at me from the screen I even screamed,” the 25-year-old student said.

CVG, which requires that users bring their own consoles and games, also makes money from food orders, which include popcorn, nachos, corndogs and calamari. Before 6:00 p.m., up to four people can rent a screen for two hours for roughly $90. The fee increases to $135 in the evening. Seung Woo Han, a CGV employee, said that he came up with the idea after realizing that games have become increasingly cinematic.

“When thinking about how to make use of empty cinema spaces, I noticed that games nowadays boast excellent graphics and well structured stories just like movies,” he said. “Both have a storytelling aspect to them, so if someone can enjoy watching a film in the cinema, I thought they would also enjoy playing computer games in one.”

The global cinema industry has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ticket sales last year dropped 71% to $12.4BN down from $42.5BN in 2019, according to Variety. In the US, AMC Theatres, the country’s largest cinema chain, invested $917M in December to avoid bankruptcy, while in the UK, filmmakers have urged the government to subsidize cinema chains.

Malco Theaters, a Memphis-based cinema chain, also started renting out its screens in November. The company allows up to 20 people to rent a screen at its 36 cinemas across Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee for $100 for two hours or $150 for three. “It is gaining traction, and is becoming popular, but nothing is adding to our profitability at this point,” Malco VP Karen Melton said.

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