Coronavirus Cinema Update – Friday 13 March 2020

By Patrick von Sychowski | March 13, 2020 4:27 am PDT

This post will be updated throughout the day (13 March 2020) as news emerges and things change at a fast pace. Thank you also to all those who have sent in news and kept us informed. Please send updates you may have to

It is exactly 50 days since all cinemas closed in China (23 January). The good news is the preparations are currently being made for re-opening them and there are plans and funding in place to revive cinema as an attractive entertainment option, particularly for people who have been stuck at home for weeks. The bad news is we are getting hourly reports of countries deciding to close all their cinemas (as well as schools, museums, sporting events and more), not to mention major Hollywood and local releases being postponed.

The announcement that CinemaCon is not going ahead didn’t come as a surprise after the travel ban imposed by President Trump on Europeans form the Schengen area was announced. As Canada’s Globe & Mail film expert Barry Hertz puts it, “The only real surprise about CinemaCon’s cancellation is that it took so long.” But it did come as a welcome relief for those that had been unsure whether to attend, even for those who had already booked tickets, planned to exhibit or hold events. Attention now turns to everyone’s domestic concerns, with efforts to minimise the fallout from any cinema closures.

It is important to remember that just as VHS and Netflix hasn’t killed people appetite for cinema, so to did people return to that dark shared room after the outbreaks of war, terrorism and disasters. Even after the Spanish Flu of 1918, the nascent cinema bounced back in 1919 with the formation of United Artists by Chaplin, Pickford and Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith released Broken Blossom, Harold Lloyd pioneers test screenings and The Capitol Theatre in New York City opened as one of the largest cinemas in the world with 4,000 seats.

All Cinema Closed: China (23 Jan), Iran (Feb), Italy, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Qatar, North Macedonia, Greece.

Several major films have had their opening postponed including Paramount’s A Quiet Place 2, Universal’s Fast & Furious 9, Disney’s Mulan and New Mutants. On the bright side, as Hollywood film postpone their cinema release, other distributors move in to fill gaps: The Secret Garden, with Colin Firth, and South Korean animation We the Dogs will go out on April 15 and 29 in France, replacing Peter Rabbit 2.

Exhibitor Stock Prices
It was carnage for cinema shares on the global stock markets yesterday. Hard to keep up with them all, but this overview from Seeking Alpha:

AMC is now down 21%; Cinemark (NYSE:CNK-24%IMAX -23.3%; and in-theater ad company National CineMedia (NASDAQ:NCMI) has found a new low down 28.4%. Marcus (NYSE:MCS) is -21.8% now, and Reading International (NASDAQ:RDI-8.5%.

South Korea
Only some cinemas have been closed in areas with high outbreak numbers, like Daegu, but the audiences have stayed away from cinemas that remain open:

According to the Film Council report, only 7.3 million people visited domestic movie theaters in February, down 67% from the same period last year, the lowest in 16 years since February, and the number of audiences per day on March 3 was 5,9876. This was the lowest since 2004 when the aggregate computing network started counting, compared to when the MERS hit 14.2 million people in June 2015 and the April 2014 incident with the Sewol tragedy in April 2014.

However, some small local titles have done well, particularly in the absence of major releases.

Cinemas have closed in several states, including the capital Delhi region, Kerala and UT of J&K. Several major Bollywood releases are expected to be delayed.

No sooner had we published our post on small cinemas closing in Poland then it was announced that all cinemas would be closing from 12 March onwards. It is hard to keep pace with events.

Cinemas remain open in the UK, but Cineworld is saying that it might not be able to pay off its debt and stay in business, if a closure lasts for long. Its shares lost 24% of their value yesterday, having already fallen significantly this year. There is an ‘Updated Coronavirus Advice for Community Cinemas‘ from Cinema For All, who are all working from home from today.

Preventative measures in Irish cinemas include leaving 50% of seats empty. Also “self-scanning of tickets, increased cleaning regimes and hand sanitising stations.” Omniplex even put out a press release.

Every effort is being made to keep cinemas open in Europe’s biggest cinema market:

The French Syndicate of Cinematographic Theaters (SFTC) is holding its general assembly this Thursday, March 12 in Reims. The opportunity for cinema owners to talk about the 2019 assessment and the concerns related to the coronavirus. Priority: do everything to keep the auditoriums open to the public.

And this:

“It is absolutely necessary to avoid a deprogramming spiral followed by a drop in attendance”, which would cause a snowball effect, explains Marc-Olivier Sebbag, general delegate of the National Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF).

Some individual cinemas have closed, but no order yet from Federal or State governments (only some cities) to shut screens. Some operators like Cineplex (DE) and Cineplexx (Austria) are putting in place 50% caps on audiences to ensure distance in seating.

Cinemas were ordered closed yesterday in first Denmark, shortly followed by Norway, both for a period of 14 days (initially). Sweden and Finland appear to be holding off for now, though restricting large events.  Cinemas have closed in Estonia (until 1 May) and Lithuania (until 28 March), though in Latvia Forum kino is still operating, as of Friday morning.

Kinepolis has closed its Belgian cinemas on the advice of the government. No word on its cinemas closing in Netherlands, France, let alone Canada or US, showing that these closures are driven by local government advice and edicts.

Government takes unprecedented step of closing Prado museum and other cultural institutions for two weeks. Cinemas are not part of the closure and some small distributors hope to benefit from the pulling of larger titles.

North Macedonia
Is closing its cinemas, with Skopje Film Festival moved to September. Other Balkan territories likely to follow.

Restrictions previously imposed on Bulgarian cinemas have been lifted following protests by Bulgarian Association of Cinemas. Cinemas of less than 250 seats can be open as long as every second seat and row is left free.

The latest country to close cinemas (and schools etc) is Qatar, following a government edict. With Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait all having closed their cinemas, it can only be a matter of time until U.A.E./Dubai is forced to follow suit.

Individual cinemas are taking individual measures against the outbreak. “About 38% of U.S. adults support shuttering theaters due the coronavirus epidemic, but 44% oppose the idea, according to a survey by the Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult.”

UPDATE (as of 12:22 pm PDT)

Buenos Aires has restricted cultural events of more than 200 people. Cinemas are restricted to 50% occupancy capacity. This means the end of sharing popcorns and Coke, I guess.

Patrick von Sychowski
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