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For your gaming bucketlist

Movie theaters renting out their screens for gamers

By Kara Santos Published Feb 16, 2021 1:16 am

Have you ever wanted to experience what it's like playing Street Fighter or The Last of Us inside an empty movie theatre with a huge screen and surround sound?

Since lockdowns began last year, movie theater chains around the world have lost huge amounts of revenue due to pandemic-enforced closures. While cinemas in many countries still remain closed or have limited their seating capacity, others are finding creative ways to operate.

A number of movie houses around the world, including South Korea’s largest theater chain CVG, has started renting out its theaters to gamers. 

According to a BBC business report, cinemas across the country remain closed due to coronavirus restrictions, while some can only open with 50 percent capacity. Since fewer movies are being released in cinemas to tempt cinemagoers, CGV came up with the idea of renting out its auditoriums to attract gamers.

Up to four people can now reserve a screen at $90 for two hours before 6 p.m., with the fee rising to $135 after 6 p.m. Gamers who want to rent the cinema screens need to bring their own games, consoles, and controllers to play.

CVG employee Seung Woo Han has been credited for coming up with the idea to rent screens out for gaming after realizing that games and movies share a lot of similarities. 

"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," the employee told BBC. "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."

Since the new service launched at the start of this year, auditoriums have been booked more than 130 times so far. While the majority of customers are said to be men in their 30s or 40s, with couples and families also patronizing the scheme called Azit-X after "azit", the Korean word for hideout.

Korea's CGV is not the first cinema chain that's making gamers' bucketlist dreams come true by allowing gamers to book cinema screens.

Last October, Malaysia's Golden Screens Cinema (GSC) started turning their cinemas into gaming rooms so visitors can play games on the big screen. Packages started at RM 188 for three hours, with other premium packages with food and drinks also available.

The Memphis-based movie theater chain called Malco Theaters in the United States also started a similar scheme last November. As reported by Gamespot, Malco allows up to 20 people to hire a screen at its 36 cinemas across Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. The prices for service, called Malco Select Gaming, are $100 for two hours or $150 for three.

While the new concept is gaining traction, according to officials of Malco, it’s still not enough to recur losses from the lost moviegoing audience. 

Other US chains, such as AMC and Cinemark, have been allowing customers in small groups to book auditoriums for private screenings.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, a number of theaters in Metro Manila have tried to adapt to the new normal with unique outdoor set-ups including the drive-in cinema SM By the Bay in Mall of Asia and the float-in cinema at McKinley Hilll, while traditional movie theaters still remain closed. 

Earlier this week, the IATF allowed the reopening of traditional cinemas in areas under general community quarantine. However, the decision has been moved to March 1, subject to operational guidelines and approval of local government units.

Who knows. Perhaps some cinemas in the Philippines will consider renting out screens to Filipino gamers in the future as well?

(Images from GSC/Capcom/Shutterstock)