Famous French cinema shuts for August as audience numbers plummet
Postponement of summer blockbusters has killed some of the buzz around returning to the pictures
One of France's most famous cinemas is to shut its doors for August because so few people want to risk seeing movies on the big screen.
Managers at the enormous Grand Rex, which remained open in the centre of Paris throughout the Second World War, said on Monday that Hollywood studios were also to blame for holding back the release of so many summer blockbusters.
The Federation of French Cinemas said on Monday that the industry was being crippled as they demanded state aid to help them through the crisis.
"Between the drop in admissions and the lack of new American films that traditionally are a big summer draw, we have decided to close our doors from August 3," said the Grand Rex's manager, Alexandre Hellmann.
"We will lose less money by closing than by staying open with this depressing box office."
With 2,700 seats, the seven-screen Grand Rex's largest theatre is one of the biggest in Europe, with a 300-square-metre screen.
Many French cinemas have been all but empty since they were allowed to reopen after an eight-week lockdown last month.
The cinema federation appealed to banks and landlords to give its members leeway, saying it was "absolutely necessary that the government also take urgent action to refinance" the sector.
Social-distancing rules mean cinemas are allowed to be only half full.
Audiences have mostly stayed away despite a poll finding that nearly a third of the country's population was keen to get back in front of the big screen.
Several cinema managers said the postponement of Top Gun 2, Wonder Woman 1984 and Christopher Nolan's spy drama Tenet, as well as the Disney big-budget family movie Mulan, had helped to kill the buzz on which they were counting to draw people back.
"It is much tougher than we imagined," said Aurelie Delage, manager of the six-screen Cinemascop Megarama at Garat in western France.
"I am not looking at the figures. This can't last."
But the lack of competition from Hollywood has helped some smaller French films to make an impact at the box office.
The comedies Divorce Club and Tout Simplement Noir (Very Simply Black) helped to push admission through the one-million barrier last week for the first time since the end of the lockdown.
Several big French releases have also been put back to September and beyond.
A study last week showed the French box office was down almost 70 per cent on the same period last year with only arthouse cinemas bucking the trend.
Yet the traditionally cinephile French have still been far more enthusiastic about returning to cinemas than their neighbours.
German cinema entries are down to just 17 per cent of normal levels and the situation in Spain is even more catastrophic at just 13 per cent, the Comscore study showed.
Updated: July 28, 2020 03:56 AM