Italy Re-Shutters Cinemas as Europe Braces for Second Coronavirus Lockdown

Spain and France have introduced curfews as COVID-19 numbers spike.

The COVID-19 second wave has hit Europe and cinemas across the continent are again shutting down.

Italy, which in February became the first country in Europe to close cinemas due to the coronavirus pandemic, and which re-opened theaters in June, is set to shut down again, starting from Monday, Oct. 26. 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte Sunday, responding to a spike in COVID-19 infections, announced that cinemas, along with live theaters, discos, and gaming halls, will be forced to close their doors. Italy also introduced a new curfew for bars and restaurants, which will have to stop service after 6 p.m. The move came after Italy recorded a new daily record of 19,644 coronavirus infections. The government hopes the partial-shutdown will curb the infection rate and avoid the necessity of another total lockdown.

Spain has also introduced a nationwide curfew — from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. — as COVID-19 cases shoot up across Europe, though individual regions will be able to customize their curfew with a margin of one hour on either side.

France last week extended a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in several regions, including Paris. The French measures, which will affect around 46 million people or nearly 70 percent of the French population, will also impact cinemas, which will be required to close early. It's a major setback for the local industry, which was doing increasingly well. Box office figures in September were the best since the shutdown, with some 5.5 million admissions, although that still represents around half of the business done by French cinemas in September last year.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bacheloth has committed $36 million (€30 million) to back the film industry.

"Our objective is to ensure that cinemas do not close. For that, film releases must be maintained," she said. "We need culture, perhaps more now during this crisis period."

The United Kingdom also introduced a curfew last week, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposing a forced 10 p.m. closure for pubs bars, and restaurants. Cinemas, however, will be largely exempted from the rule, since it will only apply to films that start after 10 p.m., not for screenings that begin before then and extend after the curfew. But across the water in Ireland, theaters have been shut since Oct. 7 and are not expected to re-start anytime soon.

Even in territories where cinemas remain open, rising infection numbers across Europe could negatively impact box office if moviegoers choose to avoid public entertainment altogether.