Jamaica’s lone cinema operator Palace Amusement Company has answered the howling calls for a drive-in cinema, given the restrictions to moviegoing because of COVID-19.
Palace Amusement has disclosed that “in its continued effort to provide an additional safe space for patrons and stakeholders, it has obtained a licence for premises at Dominica Drive in New Kingston for the operation of a drive-in cinema”.
This disclosure was made in a regulatory filing by the company to the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), where its shares are traded.
According to Palace Amusement, “Although the licence was obtained on August 21, 2020 and preparatory work has begun, we are not yet able to say when operations will commence, as this is subject to directives from the Government for the operation of cinemas and places of entertainment during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Jamaica Observer reported in its Caribbean Business Report on Friday July 3 this year that Palace Amusement had still not taken a decision regarding setting up a drive-in cinema given mounting calls for this to be done by moviegoers, whose amusement activity was cut on March 14.
On that day Palace Amusement closed all its cinemas in observance of social distancing restrictions by the Government to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Palace Amusement stated in July that although efforts have commenced to explore the possibility of offering a drive-in cinema experience to patrons, at that time the company was not in a position to say whether this will become a reality.
Since the cinemas have been closed, there has been renewed interest in bringing back drive-in spaces but Palace Amusement explained that such a venture would be costly at this time, since it has not been earning any income for the past three-and-a-half months.
Bleeding from the almost four-month closure of its cinemas, Palace Amusement was forced to obtain interim financing from its bankers to keep the business afloat.
The closure of the cinemas has resulted in significant losses over the period of the closure, forcing the company to seek interim financing to deal with its “substantial standing charges to maintain”.
The financing doesn’t cover all of the company’s financial obligations, but is sufficient to meet its fixed costs.
In the advisory to the JSE, Palace Amusement did not state the value of the interim financing or identify the source, but admitted that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on its operations and performance.
Estimates suggest that Palace Amusement may have lost as much as $300 million since the closure.