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No chatting, no popcorn recommended for safe movie watching in theaters

17:58 May 13, 2020

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korean moviegoers will be advised not to chat and eat popcorn in theaters to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The Korean Film Council (KOFIC), the country's film industry governing body, released detailed quarantine rules for movie theaters and filming sites Wednesday in accordance with eased social distancing.

It has also set up a special safety management committee consisting of health experts and film employees.

Under the precautionary guidelines, moviegoers should go through temperature checks at entrances, have seats at an adequate distance from one another, wear face masks and refrain from eating popcorn and chatting with friends.

The country relaxed intensive social distancing last week, as the country's daily new COVID-19 cases had remained around 10 for weeks. But recent cluster infections related to clubs in Seoul have stoked concerns about a new wave of infections.

Experts said theaters will be safe if people do not take off their face masks to eat movie snacks or talk with friends.

"There is very low possibility of infection when people with no fever wear face masks properly and do not have conversations at cinemas," Jun Byung-yool, a former head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), from the nine-member KOFIC committee said in a press conference in Seoul.

Cinema operators have to ventilate and disinfect the space after every movie screening and ensure that people maintain a safe distance when entering and exiting theaters. Their employees are also required to comply with quarantine rules, such as taking days off if they have a fever or cough and washing their hands frequently.

At the same time, the committee has come up with similar preventive measures to protect film crews and actors at filming locations. For instance, film studios have to prepare temperature screening equipment and review their measures if one of their employees show coronavirus-related symptoms.

The committee said outdoor shoots will be as safe as professional sports like baseball and football, which kicked off without spectators last week, if all participants comply with the rules.

The film industry is one of the worst-hit sectors amid the coronavirus pandemic in South Korea, as people have been asked to stay home and avoid mass gatherings.

The monthly number of viewers hit 972,000 for April, marking the first time the figure fell below the 1-million threshold since box office data was first compiled in 2004.

The South Korean government has planned to inject 17 billion won (US$13.8 million) into the film industry as part of emergency plans to rescue the sector.

A theater in the southern port city of Busan is relatively empty on May 6, 2020. (Yonhap)

brk@yna.co.kr
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