Chairman of the Daichin Group of Companies Derek Chin is reconsidering the viability of operating the MovieTowne cinema chain in T&T, which is losing approximately $.5 million per month as it remains closed due to the government’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Chelsea Ramnarine Singh, director at Anand Low Price Group (ALPG) of companies which owns a chain of gyms and restaurants, said they are also experiencing losses.
The Public Health Ordinance (CoViD-19 Regulations) 2020 prohibits the operations of cinemas, gyms, restaurants and casinos.
The government first implemented the measure in March and lifted it in July. A month later, it reintroduced the partial lockdown.
Chin described the company’s position as “precarious” saying that no one knows what the future holds during this pandemic.
He told Guardian Media that during that time, the company which has outlets in Ste Madeleine, Invader Bay, Chaguanas and Tobago had no income. He hopes that this month brings an ease of the restrictions so they can try to get patrons back to the cinemas and show them it is safe using new software of safety protocols.
“We had obviously no income. As for my staff, we worked with them as much as we could in terms of furloughing and trying to rotate, trying to keep some going. The staff has not suffered too much for obvious reasons. I am looking at a situation where the viability of MovieTowne is seriously under consideration.
“It is that bad and for any business that has not had significant income or any income at all for six, seven and eight months. You do not even know what the future hold because even when we open, we do not think the crowds or the people of the old and normal levels are going to come back right away,” Chin said.
His consultants project that it may be mid-2021 when the business can return to acceptable levels.
T&T Cinemas United, which includes, MovieTowne, Caribbean Cinemas, CinemaOne Limited and Estate 101 Limited, is assuring that it undertook steps to ensure a clean environment at its facilities. It stated that international studies show that cinemas continue to be areas of low transmission since, in movie theatres, people tend to sit quietly, not mix and face in one direction.
“Globally there has been no recorded incident to date where a movie theatre has been the epicentre of a local or community outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. Additionally, in Trinidad & Tobago, none of the COVID-19 cases has been linked to a local cinema facility.
Despite revenue decline from its gyms and restaurants, Ramnarine Singh said the ALPG experienced growth due to its highly diversified portfolio.
“We have a strategic approach to weathering the storm of uncertainty that seems to lie ahead in the business landscape,” Ramnarine Singh said.
The Rig and Runway restaurants kept its doors open for takeout, curbside pickup and delivery. Ramnarine Singh said the company has tried to accommodate displaced staff members by redeploying them to other subsidiaries like its supermarket chain and the new American expo.
With the government set to present its fiscal package for 2021 on Monday, Chin expects the dialogue to include taxes and other measures to balance the budget.
However, he wants to see more innovation and incentives to encourage entrepreneurship and diversification.
Chin suggested that it reduce VAT to 10 per cent and lease vacant State lands for business purposes. He said COVID-19 could be around for a long time, so the government has to find a way to live with it instead of locking down.
Ramnarine Singh believes that COVID-19 will change how the country operates. She said citizens must embrace these changes and be proactive.
“Our approach is simple; adapt to changes in the socio-economic and business landscape as it comes our way, and continuously improve on ourselves as we move along. Our focus on the needs of our consumers and providing quality, affordable services will not change.”