France: Timetable For Cinema Re-Openings In Flux, Festival Ban Extended To September, Pro Soccer Season Axed


French movie theaters will not be allowed to re-open when the country begins to lift its national lockdown May 11, while a ban on festivals and events that draw more than 5,000 people has been extended to September. That includes professional sports, and notably the effective axing of the 2019-2020 local soccer season. France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe made the statements in an address to the National Assembly in Paris on Tuesday afternoon as he outlined the government’s plan for the lifting of coronavirus confinement restrictions.

The easing of France’s lockdown had previously been set to begin May 11 and the plan is to stick to that date. However, Philippe warned that if the number of new COVID-19 cases is not within projected daily levels by late next week, the lockdown could be extended.

French President Emmanuel Macron two weeks ago announced that festivals would be banned until at least mid-July which effectively kiboshed the Cannes Film Festival, the lone holdout among major local summer events. The next day, the fest said it was unlikely to go ahead “in its original form,” but maintained it was exploring contingencies to make Cannes 2020 “real, in a way or another.”

As for the cinemas, there was little advancement today. When Macron spoke on April 13, he said they were closed until further notice. Today, Philippe said they would not be back in action on May 11, but did not elaborate on plans for re-openings. It appears the situation will be evaluated again after the first phase begins on May 11. That’s when some schools, offices and shops will be allowed to get back to business with social distancing measures in place.

France has been on lockdown since March 17 and in box office terms has taken the hardest hit of the European majors, down 36% across the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2019.

Theaters, concert halls, museums, bars, cafés, restaurants and beaches are also in limbo prior to June 2 which marks what the government is calling the start of Phase 2 of a progressive easing of restrictions lasting until the start of summer.

With regard to sporting events, Philippe said, “The 2019-2020 professional sports season, notably football, will not be able to start back up.” The Tour de France, however, which was already bumped to August 29-September 20 could still take place.

Deputies will have the opportunity to vote on the overall measures of the lockdown lift this evening, however this has been categorized as an “advisory.”

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