The impact of COVID-19 on the global cinema business (as at 18/5/20)

German State Baden-Wurtemmberg is allowing cinemas to open from 1 June, making seven out of the 16 States to have opening dates. These States account for 55% of the total screen base.

Italy has set a date on 15 June for re-opening its cinemas, after being one of the earliest countries to be hit by COVID-19. This is part of a gradual plan, starting today and phased for the next four weeks.

Austrian government has set a date for cinemas re-opening. They will be allowed to open from 1 July, with a max capacity of 250 people per room, relatively high. However, social distancing measures may reduce this maximum capacity. The government had previously given a date of the end of August for re-opening.

Slovakian cinemas had been set to re-open on 3 June but the government has brought that forward to 20 May, along with swimming pools and primary schools.

Slovenia has announced an end to the COVID-19 pandemic in its country, and is allowing all bars and restaurants to open from next week. Cinemas have not been explicitly cited as yet, and the measures needed are not yet known.

While cinemas in Bulgaria have been given official permission to open since 13 May, the government has also said that air-conditioning units are not allowed to operate.

In South Australia, cinemas can reopen from 8 June, with one person per four square metres and a maximum of 20 people per screen both mentioned in initial plans. It is hard to see sites opening with a stringent capacity level of 20 people.

In Queensland, cinemas will be allowed to open from 12 June for up to 20 people, along with amusement parks and other indoor entertainment venues. Stage 3 of the opening will include gatherings of up to 100 people, and also apply to cinemas.

In Northern Territory, cinemas will be allowed to open from 5 June, as long as they have a COVID-19 plan. A limit on two hours maximum for entertainment activities will be lifted.

Lastly in Australia, In Tasmania, as part of a phased re-opening plan, cinemas will be allowed to open for up to 20 people from 15 June. Capacity limits will increase from 13 July.

These four States account for around one third of the country’s screens, with the largest of these being Queensland. Other States have set out a plan including cinemas re-opening but have not yet set a fixed date. They are expected in the days to come.

In Vietnam, CJ CGV Vietnam (subsidiary of Korean exhibitor CJ Group) opened its screens on 9 May, with distancing and enhanced cleaning measures in place. Many cinemas are showing old blockbusters at reduced prices. The release of domestic films has also been impacted, in the same way as has affected Hollywood’s output, and a number of films are waiting for larger audiences to be available. Vietnamese cinemas lost over $11m during March, compared to box office earnings of $15m in March 2019.

In the USA, the Arizona franchises of Alamo Drafthouse has filed for bankruptcy. Alamo Drafthouse, based in Austin, Texas had three franchises operating in the Phoenix area and they have all filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, whereas the sites owned by the main company have not. Cinemas in Arizona will be able to open from 16 May, as the stay at home order expires.

A new survey of moviegoers, undertaken by EDO (Movie Theatres and Social Distancing; see also 2 April 2020 entry) and cited in Deadline suggests that people are somewhat split about coming back to cinemas. When surveyed, 40% said they were ‘likely’ to come back and 36% said ‘unlikely’. However, three quarters of customers would be ‘somewhat likely’ or ‘highly likely’ to return to cinemas if they implemented and communicated a range of measures beforehand. The most popular safety measures (around 90%) are hand sanitisers throughout the cinema and fewer shows to allow for deeper cleans. Around 60% of people wouldn’t object to having their temperatures taken, and 70% want employees to have their temperatures checked as they begin their work shift. Unusually, 5 per cent of those surveyed thought that no safety measures should be put in place. EDO polled a sample of 3,269 respondents, majority female, and 40% were younger than 35. 95% of the respondents had seen at least two movies in cinema during a typical six-month span.

IBC 2020 has been cancelled due to COVID-19. The event, including the Big Screen and EDCF Global Seminar, had been due to take place between 11-14 September in Amsterdam.