French Cinemas Ordered to Remain Closed Through the Holidays

Le Brady. © Tanguy Colon

French exhibitors were dealt a blow this week when Prime Minister Jean Castex announced cinemas would be forced to stay closed through the holiday period.

Cinemas across the country had been ordered to shutter on November 24 for a period of three weeks, part of a multi-tiered lockdown on businesses in a nationwide effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Those orders were originally set to expire on December 15, a day before the scheduled theatrical debut of Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984.

Movie theaters in France must now wait another three weeks for the next round of government reviews on the closure orders. If successful, French cinemas would not re-open until January 7 at the earliest. The government’s decision was announced with such short notice that distributors had already scheduled 47 releases through January 6 to welcome audiences back to theaters.

In response to the decision, France’s cinema trade group, the FNCF, called for its member cinemas to light up their marquees on December 15 between the hours of 5 and 6 PM, the time they had previously been set to re-open, in an act of symbolic protest.

“We are outraged by this announcement,” reacted Marc-Olivier Sebbag, general delegate of the FNCF. “Transport and shops remain open, without new measures, while the places that present the least danger remain closed. The cultural sector is paying for the forecasting errors of a computer in the Ministry of Health. This is a huge injustice to every player in the cultural sector. It’s incomprehensible. We will discuss with all the parties involved in the cultural sector to mobilize and change this appalling decision.”

Box office figures in France are down nearly 70% year-over-year through October, a figure that will only be exacerbated by year-end. Cinemas in France were open for a little over seven months in 2020, operating in pre-pandemic conditions for the first 3 and a half months of the year. The country registered a record 213.3 million admissions in 2019. It expects to finish 2020 with 64.9 million admissions, a year-over-year drop of nearly 70 percent according to figures from the CNC, the government agency representing the country’s cinema sector.

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