Germany’s Largest Cinema Organization Calls For Less Distancing In Cinemas: “Only Then Will Cinemas Survive”

Cinema Sipa via AP Images

HDF Kino, Germany’s largest cinema association, has called for a reduction to the 1.5M social distancing measures in cinemas to ensure that exhibitors “survive” the COVID crisis.

The organization, which has 620 members who account for more than 3,200 cinema screens across Germany, made the call in light of a new study by the Hermann Rietschel Institute at the Technical University of Berlin, which claims that cinemas are safer than offices when it comes to airborne disease transmission. 

The HRI study compared the aerosol concentrations of two cinema halls of different sizes with an office space and says the lack of talking in cinemas and different ventilation systems make them a safer environment.

“During a cinema visit people are only exposed to a fraction of the possible aerosol quantities that can be compared to those in an office workplace,” says HDF Kino.

Referencing the study, the organization said: “Since there is generally no speaking during a visit to the cinema while conversations take place in everyday office life, the amount of aerosol inhaled in the cinema is just 0.3% compared to that in the office….The type of ventilation prevailing in cinemas is so-called source ventilation, in which the air usually flows in under the seating area, the used air heats up on the people and then rises. The air in the breathing area of ​​these people is therefore significantly less aerosol-containing than with the same air change in a room with mixed ventilation, as is usual in office rooms.”

Christine Berg, CEO HDF, said today: “The study by the HRI shows how extremely low the aerosol pollution is and thus how low the risk to individual cinema-goers is in the current situation. We therefore call for the 1.5M distance regulation on which this study is based to be reduced nationwide, since it is obvious that the safety of our guests is guaranteed even with a shorter distance. Cinemas can only use a maximum of 20% of their capacities with the spacing regulations that still apply in almost all federal states, which in turn has a negative impact on the release dates of new films. Only if German cinemas can increase their capacity will there be more new films. And only then will the cinemas be able to survive this crisis at all.”

The World Health Organization has said that COVID is most commonly transmitted through close contact but that aerosol transmission in crowded indoor spaces “cannot be ruled out.”

Less than 50% of Germany’s cinemas are currently open and with a raft of protocols in place, including state mandated 1.5M distancing, the wearing of masks and contactless ticketing. Re-openings are gradual and rural cinemas are still closing mid-week with limited opening hours on weekends. Like in most major markets, local exhibitors have taken a battering and face further challenges as more studios delay major movies.

Russell Crowe-starrer Unhinged got its first release in the market this past session, coming in at an estimated $255K from about 380 screens. As we reported this week, this was perhaps lower than expected, but the country is experiencing lingering virus concerns as well as good weather.

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