Coronavirus: Cinemas in Australia, New Zealand Ordered to Shut Down

Empty Theatre - Getty - H 2020
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Over 2,700 movie theaters in the two countries will close down after government-ordered shutdowns of nonessential services for up to six months.

Cinema chains in Australia and New Zealand are closing their doors from Monday after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday night ordered a shutdown of all nonessential services, saying social distancing measures have failed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in Australia. 

Morrison told Parliament on Monday the country must prepare for long-term shutdown of nonessential activities, closing pubs, gyms, theaters and cinemas for the next six months.

Cinema operators in New Zealand, several of the larger ones that are owned by Australian companies, followed suit, closing their doors Monday.

There are 2,310 screens in Australia and over 400 in New Zealand. The Australian box office in 2019 was the third highest on record grossing over AUS$1.228 billion. 

Some independent cinemas and operators including Palace Cinemas had already closed. 

Village Roadshow, the owner and operator of the largest number of screens in Australia said Monday it was standing down staff immediately and moving to "maintenance only" mode. The company also operates theme parks around Australia, which have also closed. It also owns Village Roadshow film studios on the Gold Coast, which was hosting the Warner Bros. Elvis Presley biopic shoot that closed down last week. 

Clark Kirby, CEO of Village Roadshow Limited, said, “we have made this decision with heavy hearts, but we know it is the right thing for the safety and well-being of our employees, patrons and the community. We are grateful for the support of our employees and will adopt strategies to reduce the financial impact on them as much as possible. We will plan for our businesses to open again once it is safe and prudent to do so. 

“Our primary focus is to get through this and emerge at the other end able to support the many thousands of employees we have across the Village Roadshow Group, and the myriad of businesses, large and small, which rely on us for their livelihood,” he added.

Event Cinemas NZ spokeswoman Carmen Switzer said: "The impact of coronavirus is unprecedented and we could no longer guarantee the safety and well-being of our staff and customers — which has always been our first priority”.

There are 102 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand and over 1,100 in Australia.

Border protection measure instituted by the NZ government last week forced the indefinite shutdown of production on Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series and live-action filming on the Avatar sequels. In Australia TV series including Netflix’s Clickbait and features The Legend of Shang-Chi and Warner Bros Elvis Presley biopic were also shut down indefinitely and upcoming seasons of The Voice Australia and Australian Survivor have been canceled due to travel restrictions

More to come...