As the coronavirus pandemic slows down around parts of the world, some restrictions are starting to be lifted by the government, allowing for certain businesses to open as long as they maintain social distancing policies and standards in order to avoid a resurgence of the illness. That means movie theater chains are in the process of either slowly reopening, or preparing to open this summer. Over in Europe, a handful of Germany’s theaters are giving reopening a shot this month, but the United Kingdom is waiting until July before they turn the projectors on again.
Deadline has word on certain German territories being allowed to reopen cinemas. For example, Hessen (or Hesse), where cities like Wiesbaden and Frankfurt are located, is the first to allow movie theaters to get back to business starting today. Though a couple locations, such as The Astor Film Lounge (seen above) in the MyZeil shopping center in Frankfurt and the Kronberger Lichtspiele in Taunus, Hessen, are opening with limited capacity, a majority of the theater owners don’t think it’s worth it yet. That’s because the maximum occupancy rate of 25%-30% doesn’t allow them to make enough money to justify opening the theater.
Major German theater chains like Kinopolis and Metropolis don’t seem to be keen on taking advantage of the opportunity yet either. On top of the fact that all theaters have to operate with limited capacity, there aren’t a lot of great options to bring audiences back into theaters right now. The theaters opening are showing recently popular Oscar nominees and winners like Bohemian Rhapsody, Knives Out and Parasite, as well as newer theatrical titles like The Gentlemen alongside new German films. Some classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s are part of the theatrical offerings, but movies like that aren’t exactly going to be big box office draws.
Part of the problem seems to be that theaters aren’t doing much to unify and figure out the best time to open together. Instead, an association of independent German theaters called Cineplex said they hope to open by June 4, but a guild of German art house cinemas is holding off until July 2. All this creates a lot of uncertainty, and it’s probably hard for people to know what theaters are open, whether it’s safe enough to go back, and what theaters are collectively doing in order to keep people safe. But what makes a unified plan hard to execute is that some areas, like the hard-hit Bavaria, are not ready for businesses like that to reopen yet. It’s a clusterfuck in every sense of the word.
United Kingdom Movie Theaters Aiming for July Opening
Meanwhile, across the pond, it seems like theater chains are doing a better job of coordinating a reopening of cinema in general. A spokesperson for the United Kingdom Cinema Association told Variety:
“We have made clear to the U.K. government – and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – that, on the basis of our understanding of the safeguards that will need to be in place before cinemas can safely open, most venues will be ready to do so by the end of June. The suggestion that this might be considered around July 4 for cinemas in England is therefore welcome.”
As of now, two of the biggest theater chains in the United Kingdom are aiming to reopen around that time in early July when government restrictions are officially lifted.
Showcase Cinemas is hoping to reopen cinemas as soon as they’re allowed on July 4. Theaters will be open with policies in place that will enforce social distancing requirements such as staggered seating, plexiglass shields for employees at cash registers, hand sanitizer stations, and personal protective equipment like face masks and gloves. Vue Cinemas, the UK’s third-largest chain, will also be following suit.
However, whether some theaters reopen will depend on the state of the pandemic in certain areas. Mark Barlow, General Manager of Showcase Cinemas UK, said:
“It is clearly dependent on many factors. But the most recent announcement from the government gave a proposed date of July 4 for leisure destinations that can implement social distancing and other safety measures to reopen, and this is what we are currently working towards.”
Odeon Cinemas hasn’t confirmed they’ll be opening on the government approved date of July 4, but they’re hoping to be open sometime in early July as well, again depending on government regulations and the state of the market. One of Odeon’s spokespeople told Deadline:
“We are working closely with national cinema associations and governments as we introduce additional health and safety protocols across all of our sites.”
However, that could very well change if Hollywood ends up holding back two of the big movies currently slated for release in July. The Odeon spokesperson added:
“We will be ready to welcome guests back from early July, and the reopening of our cinemas will be dependent on having a strong line-up of films in place for our guests to enjoy. Currently this begins with Tenet and Mulan.”
However, if Hollywood doesn’t see US theaters prepared to open in time to let Tenet and Mulan flourish by late July, then the release of those movies around the globe could end up being delayed too. It’s a delicate situation that will need to be figured out sooner than later.
Honestly, I’m not sure now is the best time to reopen movie theaters. The options for bringing people back to theaters are few and far between unless a bunch of repertory screenings get approved. And there are too many people who aren’t ready to head back to theaters so soon after the restrictions that resulted from the coronavirus have been lifted. It’s not as if the danger is suddenly gone, even though the spread is starting to slow. But when you have a sect of idiots who refuse to wear masks outside and threaten to put other people’s lives in danger for the sake of their “freedom,” it’s hard to have any confidence in getting back to business as usual in the near future
The United States will likely need to start having conversations about how movie theaters here will open, and it will be very interesting to see how that moves forward and effects international markets. Stay tuned.
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