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    Feb 22, 2016

    Cinemas here not tangled up by Web rivals

    DESPITE the onslaught of alternative entertainment online, cinema chains here are thriving, with the number of screens here increasing steadily since 2010 and new offerings in the pipeline for moviegoers.

    Shaw Theatres opened its newest cineplex at Punggol's Waterway Point on Jan 21, bringing its number of locations to nine.

    It has 66 screens and 10,661 seats this year, compared to 55 and 9,211 respectively in 2014.

    Golden Village (GV) has 11 locations here with 13,932 seats, the latest being GV Suntec City, opened in 2014.

    Cathay Cineplexes has seven cinemas and 57 screens, the newest being Cathay Cineplex Jem, launched in November 2013.

    Data from the Department of Statistics shows the number of cinema screens here has steadily increased from 167 in 2010 to 220 in 2014.

    Attendances have hovered around 20-plus million since 2010, although there was a slight dip in 2014, when 21.6 million tickets were sold compared to 22 million in 2013.

    Statistics for 2015 will be out only around the middle of this year.

    With the recent introduction of on-demand video-streaming service Netflix here, one may expect moviegoing to take a hit. But cinema chains say they do not foresee much of an impact as the cinematic experience is unique.

    Terence Heng, vice-president of innovation, content and engagement at Shaw Organisation, told My Paper that it does not view online streaming platforms as direct competition as it screens current movie titles.

    He added that cinemagoing "is a social activity and experience that cannot be replaced by online streaming services".

    Clara Cheo, chief executive of Golden Village Multiplex, added that "online streaming is not a new phenomenon" and is "just another form of competition like other leisure activities competing for consumers' time and money".

    She said GV has seen an overall increase in attendance due to Hollywood's banner years at the box office, the opening of new cinemas and refurbishments to its existing cinemas.

    Ms Cheo added that Hollywood "had its biggest year at the box office in 2015", which led to "some growth in cinema attendance" around the world, including Singapore.

    Some of the biggest blockbusters last year include Jurassic World, Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

    While online streaming "may impact attendance to some extent", she said moviegoing can be made compelling "by putting in place infrastructural investments'' that heighten the overall experience.

    Such additions include premium movie experiences, which Mr Heng said there has been an increase in demand.

    Shaw's latest cineplex at Waterway Point is "the first to use Karness' newest Clarus screen technology for better light and image quality". It features its third Imax theatre, with the other two at Shaw Theatres Lido at Orchard Road and Shaw Theatres JCube at Jurong East.

    Golden Village introduced Nappa leather seats at Gold Class VivoCity in December last year and will be opening an upgraded GV Tiong Bahru by the middle of this year.

    Cathay Cineplexes will be launching a loyalty programme in the second half of this year.

    GV said its cinemagoers range from teenagers to those aged 50. A Cathay spokesman said its demographic differs by outlet location, with Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure Orchard popular among young people and The Cathay Cineplex drawing working adults.

    What draws audiences to the cinema? It is all about the experience, said Vishesh Kumar, organiser of The Movie Club Singapore, which was set up in September last year and has 4,740 members who meet up to watch films.

    "When you watch a movie in a theatre, you cut yourself off from the entire world and immerse yourself in the movie and its characters. No Netflix fare can beat that kind of experience," he said.

    Going to the cinema remains relatively affordable, with standard ticket prices from $8.50.