Coronavirus: Germany's Biggest State to Re-Open Cinemas May 30

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Movie theaters in the country are allowed to slowly begin operating again after the government issued strict COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.

Germany's largest state has unveiled plans to reopen movie theaters as the local economy begins to transition from the lockdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The western German state of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), which has a population of just under 18 million and is home to major cities such as Cologne and Dusseldorf, will allow cinemas to re-open on May 30 under strict hygienic guidelines. NRW will be the first state in the country to allow movie theaters to re-open.

The rules, outlined by the state government this week, will require a minimum five-foot (1.5 meter) social distance between patrons, roughly the equivalent of three movie seats. Theaters will also have to implement social distancing rules in their lobbies and concession areas.

NRW Premier Armin Laschet unveiled the guidelines for cinemas as part of a broader plan to re-open the state, which went into near complete lockdown in late March amid the outbreak of the coronavirus. NRW has already begun opening most shops, with both employees and customers required to wear face masks.

Other German states are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks and months as Germany cautiously loosens its lockdown measures. The moves will be welcomed by local exhibitors. According to their own estimates, German movie theaters have lost some $200 million in revenue since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Germany is a  global top 10 box office market and the third-largest in Europe, behind the U.K. and France.

Only around 2 percent of European cinemas are currently in operation but across the continent, countries are beginning to layout plans to reopen cinemas. Theaters in Norway open today (May 7) with a 50-person capacity per screen, while the Czech Republic will allow cinemas to re-open open May 11 with a 100-person capacity limit.

The U.K. exhibition industry has outlined plans to begin re-opening cinemas at the end of June or early July. Ireland has announced plans to re-open theaters in August. European exhibitors group UNIC has given July as a target date to begin re-opening cinemas.