A closer look at the big screen

By Chenelle Fernando and Dimithri Wijesinghe

Movie outings are the simplest of things that grant one great joy over a span of time, whichever it maybe.

Whether it’s your birthday or first date, the movies are the perfect plan to wind down, relax, and just bask in the glory of watching a good movie, all while enjoying the company of family and friends.

You don’t really see anything going wrong; or could you?

If you happen to be in touch with the current state of affairs, you are likely to have heard of the incident which took place at a leading cinema hall in Colombo last weekend.

It drew everyone’s attention as it did ours; so we thought it timely to dig deep into the policies for the maintenance and facilitation of quality control in movie theatres around Sri Lanka – one of the most visited sites in the country.

The background

Speaking to Chief Medical Officer of Health of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) Dr. Ruwan Wijayamuni, we found out that inspections were made at the said movie hall upon the receiving of the complaint.

We were told they were able to uncover colonies of bugs in most seats including the walls, following which the management was directed to shut down the cinema hall concerned.

Dr. Wijayamuni noted that although there might have been previous incidents, no one necessarily would have taken the initiative to lodge a complaint. “I’m quite thankful to the individual that did complain as it becomes difficult for public authorities to place emphasis or constant attention on cinemas alone.”

However, even with the presence of four cinema halls at the premises, Dr. Wijayamuni stated that they found no bug infestations during their inspections of the rest.

When asked of the teething troubles organisations are likely to face over the extermination process, we were told that bugs of such nature are hard to get rid of due to the presence of a cutin-like coating over their exoskeleton.

He further added that “these companies have a responsibility to keep a public place, be it a cinema or any other publicly accessible place under their purview free of any parasites or insects that can be a troublesome to the public. Though these bugs aren’t known to have been carrying any diseases, unlike the dengue mosquito, they are in fact a nuisance. People pay through their nose to go for a movie, and there is no specific policy set for cinemas, although generally it’s the owners or management’s responsibility to maintain the premises in a manner that would not bring about a public nuisance.”

“Chemicals don’t penetrate through their skin due to the presence of this coating, so controlling them can become difficult,” noted Dr. Wijayamuni.

Naturally we were prompted to ponder over policies set in place by theatre companies to ensure their patrons obtained excellent service, and here’s what some of them had to say:

Scope Cinemas

We contacted the Director/ CEO of Scope Cinema’s; making waves at present due to their new addition at the Colombo City Centre with the new and improved Dolby Atmos Theatre.

Scope is also responsible for Liberty Cinema’s in Kolpity and according to CEO and Director Thushan Rangana Meemanage, the company employs a comprehensive policy when it comes to maintenance and pest control.

He said, “When it comes to pest control, we have outsourced it to a company. We have taken all measures to minimise these issues, hence why we don’t have bed bug issues or concerns of that nature.

Once a month we do a cleanup, i.e. on Poya days. We clean al the seats, carpets, and we go to the extent of washing them. Apart from this we ensure we clean the premises after every show. We have a cleaning staff of six people who work on a shift basis.”

Meemanage further stated: “We benchmark ourselves with international theatre companies, hence why we are renowned to grant the best experience for our customers,” adding also what sets scope theaters apart from the rest: “We have steps in our cinemas, unlike most others. So when you have steps movement of equipment becomes difficult, although we do that to provide better viewing angles for our customers”.

He revealed that although government authorities have not set standards to be met, theatre owners are required to take the conscious effort to clean and keep the premises clean, “If you do your regular cleaning  after every show, you don’t come across these issues,” he said.

EAP Theatres

EAP has within its control thirteen cinemas situated islandwide, with the furthest one being at Anuradhapura. Head of Operations Chamara Perera revealed that they had outsourced these services to a particular company. “They do their rounds once every two weeks, where they check and clean the premises,” added Perera.

Apart from this, the managers allocated to every theatre, together with the minor staff, ensure they do their daily rounds for the purpose of detecting any form of pest activity.

From the Public Health Inspectors to fire insurances to the liquor license, Perera told us that the needful had been looked into. He said: “At EAP, we have a strong sense of teamwork. Hence, from the managerial level downwards, we ensure we work towards the maintenance of customer satisfaction at all times.”