PETALING JAYA, July 10 — Indoor live events are now allowed to resume under the recovery movement control order (RMCO) guidelines, putting an end to some worries of local event organisers.
Being allowed to resume live events doesn’t necessarily mean “business as usual” as experienced professionals from the live events industry shared with Malay Mail that the Covid-19 SOPs make it much harder to get back on track.
Live event entertainment company, PR Worldwide’s managing director Para Rajagopal said in an interview that there may be hard months ahead for event organisers, as there may be very little room for profits.
“It will certainly be harder than ever to balance capacity with profitability amid the safety measures put in place,” said Para.
“The only way would be to find some balance between lower numbers or ticket prices (high or low), or we have to find ways to come up with budget shows to reduce production cost and venue rentals.
“But I think profitability is going to take a back seat for now as the industry gets back into gear.”
Para added that while the SOPs are in place for everyone’s safety, it requires double the effort and work required from event organisers — and with less profit to show for it too.
“Premises need to be cleaned and disinfected before they are open to the public and it needs to be done at least three times a day, especially in the on-premises facilities.
“Equipment and props need to be cleaned before and after use, you cannot exceed 250 patrons at any given activity or time in a seated capacity and we need to shorten the duration of the event by reducing time breaks or resuming without breaks.”
He also said that security checks will become a lot more complicated as well, as reduced contact between individuals is a crucial part of social distancing.
LOL Asia chief executive officer Rizal Kamal, who is also the president of ALIFE, a non-profit organisation that supports and advocates all live arts, festivals and events in Malaysia, supported Para’s statements as he said that it will be a “long time” until things are the same again.
“The reality is, we don’t know how long the pandemic will last. Looking at places like Melbourne, there was a second wave. We’ve been doing so well, but we have to stay vigilant in order for us to avoid a second wave.
“But staying vigilant means keeping concerts and events small, and festivals won’t run for a while.”
Rizal, 45, has been in the live events industry for the past 11 years and noted, however, that “capacity” plays a pivotal role in making or breaking upcoming events, as a limited number of people means it will be harder to keep pushing out more events.
“It’s very difficult to do shows now because the numbers are down. Number one, capacity is capped at 250 people and number two is the one-metre social distancing rule between each seat.
“That will cause a reduction in capacity of about 70 to 75 per cent in a typical theatre. In the end, in a hall of about 500 seats, you’re only allowed to fill up 150.
“On top of all that, we have the other SOPs to make sure the place is sanitised and clean. But the numbers aren’t working. It’s extremely difficult to make any profit on a show,” he said.
Rizal said that there are potential ways to work around the issue, as he said that event organisers could attempt to use different seating arrangements.
“We are looking at a few solutions, number one is to reduce the one-metre rule slightly, to perhaps have a chequered seating arrangement,” said Rizal.
“This is employed in countries such as China and they also use this arrangement in cinemas, which is slightly less than one metre but with all the other safety measures in place, it’s allowed. With this arrangement, capacity can increase to about 45 to 50 per cent.”
This “chequered” arrangement used in cinemas works by leaving seats on the right, left, front and behind of a patron empty.
The 45-year-old added that concert slash event-goers can expect to see 100 per cent local acts and shows for the time being, with more collaboration between artists and organisers to restage past shows or performances -- provided there is a demand for it, as attracting potential patrons is another problem altogether.
“We don’t expect turnouts like before, because some people are still cautious about the virus. Plus, purchasing power is also down now, and we have to probably increase ticket prices slightly too.”
Last month, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that indoor live events will be allowed to resume from July 1, provided that any event follows the strict SOPs and everyone adheres to social distancing procedures.