French Government Tightens Safety Guidelines for Theaters

French Government Tightens Safety Guidelines for Theaters

Christopher Nolan’s hotly anticipated “Tenet” comes out in French theaters Wednesday, as in a host of overseas territories, and French exhibitors are dealing with a potential new challenge in luring back the public.

France’s recently appointed prime minister Jean Castex announced on Wednesday that face masks will now be mandatory in all areas in cinemas and other venues, even inside the auditoriums.

Up until now, face masks were only mandatory in public areas like halls, ticket booths and bathrooms of theaters, allowing moviegoers to take them off once seated.

Social distancing, meanwhile, will remain mandatory inside the screening rooms in areas where coronavirus is still active, notably in Paris and the surrounding area, Castex told the French radio station France Inter on Wednesday. Unlike in most other countries, France did not impose seating capacities in movie theaters, but rather requested that a one-meter distance be respected between each moviegoer or groups.

Castex said these tightened measure on face masks is meant to make cultural venues safer. “I tell all French people, ‘go to the cinemas, go to the theater, you don’t risk anything!’” said Castex. This stricter guideline could encourage more mature audiences to return to theaters; on the other hand, it could have an adverse effect on the younger demographics.

Theaters reopened on June 22 after a three-month shutdown, and have been struggling with the dearth of fresh releases and U.S. blockbusters, which traditionally account for the bulk of admissions during the summer in France. French cinemas have lost about €500 million ($590 million) in annual revenues since the start of the pandemic, Richard Patry, the president of the French exhibitors’ association (FNCF), told the French radio station Europe 1 on Tuesday.

“Since the reopening of cinemas on June 22, there is an average of one million spectators who come every week to theaters… about four times less than before the health crisis,” said Patry, who urged the government to inject funds into the struggling exhibition industry.

Castex said the culture sector will receive €2 billion ($2.6 billion) out of the government’s €100 billion ($118 billion) rescue plan, which will soon be unveiled. “It’s very significant… It means we think that ‘culture’ is an economic activity,” said Castex.

With coronavirus cases on the rise in France as in many countries across Europe, the government will also be restricting gatherings of more than 5,000 people in regions with the most coronavirus cases, like Paris (labeled red due to the large number of cases). This could affect concerts, as well as festivals. The next largest film festival planned in France in the coming weeks is the Deauville American Film Festival, which kicks off Sept. 4, but shouldn’t be impacted by the restriction as it’s not located in a red-labeled region as is Paris.

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