Coronavirus: Ireland Decision On Indoor Gatherings Poses Challenge For Local Cinemas

South Korea, Gwangju
South Korea, Gwangju Shutterstock

Ireland’s government today announced that schools, colleges and public facilities will close until March 29 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials also said that indoor gatherings of more than 100 people should be cancelled. The recommendation is likely to close cinemas or restrict attendance, according to industry sources. There are an estimated 70 cinemas and 400 screens in the Republic of Ireland.

A spokesperson in the country’s culture ministry told us that “it is up to individual businesses how they continue to operate but the government’s advice is to follow the health department’s recommendations that indoor gatherings of more than 100 people should not go ahead.”

We have reached out to a number of exhibition chains operating in the market. Sources on the ground tell us they are expecting venues to at least scale back attendance which would raise a question mark over the financial viability of screenings. However, another source noted that the closure of schools may mean that some exhibitors look to increase the number of shows.

One leading UK distributor we spoke to said that they are pulling upcoming distribution spend in the market.

The Republic of Ireland recorded its first coronavirus-related death today and it currently has 43 cases.

Cinema chain Omniplex, which operates in Ireland and Northern Ireland, said yesterday that it would introduce a “seat separation” policy, meaning that every second seat would be left unoccupied in a checkerboard pattern.

Other measures it will introduce include self-scanning of tickets, increased cleaning of venues and hand-sanitising stations in every cinema entrance.

To date, countries that have closed cinemas due to the coronavirus include Italy, Czech Republic, Iran, China, Poland, India, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. There are partial closures in a handful of other markets, including Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.

The UK’s box office is performing slightly softer than usual but has been surprisingly robust during the coronavirus crisis. It remains to be seen how long the UK will hold out from introducing restrictive measures which are becoming common in many fellow European countries.

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