UPDATE, 6:57AM PT: Following news that Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region is to reopen movie theaters from May 30, two other states have said their cinemas will return to operations this month. Saxony, which includes such cities as Leipzig and Dresden; and Schleswig-Holstein, the country’s northern-most state, are both due to reopen theaters on May 18 with social distancing and sanitary guidelines expected to be similar to those in NRW (see below).
PREVIOUS, 2:52AM PT: After German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday outlined plans for the easing of restrictions caused by the coronavirus crisis, the country’s most populous state has said cinemas will now be able to open from May 30.
North Rhine-Westphalia, which is home to such major cities as Dusseldorf and Cologne, set guidelines on Wednesday, but noted that progress is subject to the development of the infection process. The May 30 target date for cinemas also goes for theaters, operas and concert halls.
Safety measures include a minimum distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) between patrons while entries and exits need to be carefully planned. Security staff will be present in order to prevent crowding in lobbies and break areas.
NRW, which has a population of about 18M, is the first German state to outline its plans for bringing movie theaters back. The lifting of individual restrictions is now up to the local governments in each of the country’s 16 states. Germany’s box office was off by 19% in the first quarter, with that figure rising to -42% year-to-date through May 3. However, drive in cinemas have been thriving in the market.
Among the European majors, Germany follows Spain in setting a target date to open some cinemas, though the latter’s May 25 target is still tentative. Some of the smaller markets are beginning to get movie theaters back up and running starting this week, however, the majors in general are looking towards late June/mid-July when there is hope that Hollywood movies will make a comeback.
Merkel also confirmed on Wednesday that German top-flight soccer league, the Bundesliga, will restart this month, though matches will be played in empty stadiums. Further on Wednesday, Merkel said that all shops will reopen and schools are likely to reopen gradually before the summer break. Social distancing will remain in place until early June and measures will be reassessed should there be a spike in cases or deaths.
Germany has seen fewer than 7,000 deaths during the pandemic, a far lower figure than other Western European countries.