Reading International, which operates theaters and real estate ventures in the United States, Australia, ad New Zealand, announced today that it has begun opening select cinema locations in New Zealand. In addition, a date of June 11 has been set for the reopening of select Reading locations in Australia, “in line with government and health department regulations following recent easing of certain government mandated COVID-19 closures,” per Reading’s official press release.
On May 13, New Zealand enters the “Alert Level 2” phase of recovery, meaning that certain public venues—among them cinemas—could reopen, providing they keep records to enable contact tracing. Subsequently, a handful of independent and art house theaters opened across the country, with programming mostly consisting of a selection of Hollywood releases from the last year.
Reading re-opened cinemas in the New Zealand cities of Rotorua and Napier on May 28, 2020. The remainder of the circuit’s New Zealand cinemas will reopen on Thursday, June 4.
Indoor locations at New Zealand’s largest cinema chains—Hoyts, Village, and Event Cinemas—remain closed, though on May 24 Hoyts announced that they would reopen in New Zealand “in the coming weeks.”
Said Reading’s president and CEO Ellen Cotter, “The aggressive approach of the New Zealand government to suppress the virus, alongside the successful efforts of Australia’s government, have paved the way for Reading to re-start these important operational divisions that have long underpinned our global cash flow.”
Reading’s reopening in Australia will also be gradual, with four cinemas in South and Western Australia opening on June 11. The chain is aiming for between June 15 and June 22 for their seven cinemas in Victoria. The remaining 12 cinemas in Queensland, Tasmania, and New South Wales—the latter of which includes the country’s capitol of Sydney—“will re-open when there is further local government easing of COVID-19 restrictions.”
Safety measures in reopening cinemas in Australia and New Zealand alike will include a reduction of capacity in the lobbies and auditoria, enhanced cleaning procedures, and participation in New Zealand’s contact tracing program for the theaters in that country.
Programming will include “a mix of recently released major studio movies and older films combined with a variety of engaging community events.” The financial limitations posed by a lack new Hollywood content in the immediate future, Reading explains, has been eased by government aid programs as well as the fact that Reading owns a third of the underlying real estate in their Australia and New Zealand locations. Said Cotter, “While the COVID-19 crisis is having a significant impact on our business, Reading’s geographically diversified cinema and real estate portfolio, coupled with our proactive steps to preserve cash and ensure sufficient liquidity, give us confidence in our future.”
Reading owns 24 cinemas in the United States, located in the states of California, Hawaii, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington, D.C. A phased reopening is expected for July 2020. Several Texas chains have already opened select locations; Reading is not among them.
With today’s announcement, Australia and New Zealand join a growing list of international markets that have reopened their theaters, albeit with enhanced cleaning schedules and reduced capacity. South Korea, the Czech Republic, Vietnam, and Sweden are among the countries with theaters in operation; earlier today, the Kinepolis Group announced a phased reopening for locations in the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and France. France has set a target date of June 22 to open all their cinemas.