• Fusion chief: Staff ‘wanted to bring in champagne’
• Govt gives go-ahead for theatres after 11 months
• No opening date yet as company must ‘mobilise’
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Fusion Superplex last night said 70 more workers will be recalled after the government gave the go-ahead to re-open its cinemas, its top executive saying: “The staff want to bring champagne in.”
Carlos Foulkes, the cinema and entertainment complex’s chief executive, told Tribune Business that both company and workers were “celebrating” after the Prime Minister’s Office (competent authority) finally gave permission to re-open its main revenue generator almost 11 months after COVID-19 restrictions forced its closure.
He confirmed that Fusion Superplex had immediately begun the process of recalling furloughed staff upon receiving the competent authority’s letter, which was dated February 12, 2021, and signed by the Prime Minister, yesterday.
The letter, which was widely circulated on social media, said Fusion Superplex is now “exempt” from the government’s Emergency Powers (COVID-19 pandemic) risk management order No 4 2020, which forced the closure of its cinemas and all other outlets in March 2020.
This, it added, will “permit the opening of indoor cinemas” under the “directives and advice” received from the Ministry of Health on February 8, 2021. Fusion Superplex’s VIP cinemas, Pure One and Pure Two, with self-contained cubicles that are spread out, will be allowed to operate at “full capacity with staggered showings and full sanitisation after every showing”.
However, as foreshadowed by Mr Foulkes to Tribune Business last week, all other cinemas must operate “with occupancy levels limited to 33 percent of capacity, with staggered showings and full sanitisation after every showing”. And the ban on indoor dining remains.
The Fusion Superplex chief indicated he will have to seek further clarity from the government on whether it can re-open amenities such as the video game/arcade room, as these were not specifically addressed in the competent authority’s letter.
And he was also unable to give a specific date for when the movie theatres will re-open as the complex, which overlooks the intersection of Gladstone Road and JFK Drive, first has to mobilise the necessary staff and other resources as well as re-establish its relationship with the Hollywood movie studios.
“We will start our recall of staff and get people trained, issue uniforms and get perishables in,” Mr Foulkes explained. “It’s going to take a few days for us to mobilise. It’s quite a large business; it’s not like a Mom and Pop store.
“We have to reengage with the Hollywood studios, reengage contracts, let them know this is the date that we need to get films in, and them give us authorisation to show movies. We need time to plan. You can’t just drop it on me and expect me to do it all in one day.”
Nevertheless, Mr Foulkes, who last year said Fusion Superplex had lost $6m in revenue and counting due to COVID-19, said of the re-opening go-ahead: “I’m very relieved and the staff are celebrating. They wanted to bring champagne in. It means persons at home can come back to work.
“We have segments of the staff assigned to different parts of the business. This [re-opening] can represent 70 persons in theatre services.” Mr Foulkes said the 30 already recalled at the Fusion Superplex’s Edge restaurant, and those working in security, maintenance, administration and other parts of the building, meant some 90-100 persons had been engaged over the past two months.
The cinema-related recalls will now take this number to around 160-170 brought back, or almost half Fusion Superplex’s pre-pandemic staffing levels of 350. However, Mr Foulkes said the Government’s 10pm curfew would prevent the company from getting “up to full shifts” at present since it will be unable to show movies until 12pm-1am as previously.
While the curfew will likely require a movie cut-off time of 8pm, so that staff can clean and prepare for the next day and “stay within the confines of the curfew”, the Fusion Superplex chief nevertheless added: “It’s better than nothing.”
The Fusion Superplex, and its owners, management and staff, have gone through the full range of emotions in just five days. After reaching the depths of despair when Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) disconnected its power supply on Thursday in a dispute over $506,000 in unpaid arrears, it has now realised it long sought-after goal of being able to re-open its major revenue source.
The power supply was reconnected at 9.30pm on Thursday night after Mr Foulkes said it reached a new agreement with BPL. This involved it making a down payment on the arrears and then ensuring it remains current with all future bills.
While he did not disclose the amount of the down payment, Mr Foulkes added that it was enough to get reconnected despite the Edge Outdoor Restaurant - which generates just 10 percent of the Fusion Superplex’s business - at that time being the only outlet allowed to open.
He said: “What we advised BPL was with the current flow of revenue coming in from the single restaurant, there is no way we can meet the arrears, which is how we came to an impasse.” BPL had issued a “demand letter” for the arrears to be taken care of within seven days prior to the disconnection.
Mr Foulkes said he had advised BPL the company was not in a position to pay anything on its electricity bill, but Fusion Superplex had been “keeping our current obligations, and we did not let the expenses build up. For five months we have made payments every month to eliminate that month’s electricity bill”.
“In our facility, to get upstairs to the Edge you have to come into the main lobby, which means the light has to be on, the air conditioner has to be on, the escalator has to be working and none of those areas are the actual restaurant.”
As a result, operating costs exceeded the revenues generated by Edge and it was “a loss” to continue to operate the without the rest of Fusion’s facilities being open. “Hollywood has pushed a lot of the blockbusters back to the summer, but we have alternative content,” said Mr Foulkes.
“We have the IMAX educational films, we can do B-rated movies and Hollywood would even allow us to play movies that came out last year that the theatre didn’t have an opportunity to screen. So, there are a lot of options for content.”