France’s Theaters, Other Cultural Venues to Stay Closed Until End of January

Elsa Keslassy
·2-min read

Theaters, museums and other cultural venues will remain closed in France until the end of January, France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed during a televised address on Thursday evening.

Castex said museums, cinemas, theaters, concert halls and gyms “will not [reopen] in the weeks to come.” Meanwhile, bars and restaurants will stay closed until at least mid-February.

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Cinemas, along with other cultural venues in France, were ordered to close on Oct. 30 as France was hit by the second wave of the pandemic. The government had initially said theaters would be able to reopen on Dec. 15, which led exhibitors and distributors to prepare for a relaunch.

But on Dec. 10, as the alarming number of coronavirus cases was not going down, the government axed its plans and said theaters could likely reopen on Jan. 7 if the health situation had improved by then. That decision to keep cultural venues closed — unlike department stores, which were flooded during the holidays — sparked an uproar within France’s entertainment industry, particularly with exhibitors and distributors who had launched marketing campaigns for several fresh releases and re-releases in December.

French cultural bodies, including the French exhibitors association FNCF, appealed the government decision, but the State Council rejected the legal bid and upheld the ruling due to the grave health situation.

France, meanwhile, has not been placed on lockdown as in the U.K., but an 8pm curfew is enforced in most cities, including Paris. In other cities, a 6pm curfew is in place. France’s health minister Olivier Veran said the government was extremely concerned about a new COVID-19 mutant strain from South Africa, in addition to the one from the U.K. So far, 19 cases of variant COVID-19 have been identified.

There are currently 15,000 new coronavirus cases and almost 2,500 hospitalizations every day, according to Castex. “Granted, it is much less than the 50,000 daily cases we had at the end of October, and granted, the circulation is less active here than at our neighbor’s where lockdown measures were reinforced within the last few days […] but our situation has become more fragile,” said Castex.

Several film and TV festivals and markets have gone virtual during the first quarter of this year, notably the UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema and MipTV. The Cannes Film Festival, meanwhile, is scheduled to run in May. Cannes organizers have said they have contingency plans to push the edition to late June or July if necessary.

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