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France’s main exhibition body, the National Federation of French Cinema (FNCF), said Friday it expects the majority of its members to keep their theaters open. FNCF managing director Marc-Olivier Sebbag said he was waiting to see the exact wording of the new government decree, which is expected to be published later this afternoon, but that his understanding was that the new rules would not require cinemas to shut down.
“Our understanding is that restrictions would limit numbers to 100 per screen, rather than per cinema complex,” he noted.
In an email to The Hollywood Reporter, the FNCF said it was important that French cinemas remain open to ensure “social continuity” and offer people the opportunity to “think of other things than the new anguish that now surrounds them.”
The FNCF successfully lobbied against earlier efforts to shut down cinemas in regions hard-hit by the coronavirus. Instead of enforcing a maximum number of people per screen, the FNCF got the government to agree to a compromise which allowed theaters to stay open with 50 percent capacity restriction, keeping every second row free.
Sebbag has indicated French cinemas will try and work around the new restrictions, saying it will be difficult for theater owners to restart their operations if they are forced to shut down completely for several weeks. Instead of applying the 100-person limit per theater, which would effectively shut down most cinemas across the country, he suggested applying the restrictions on a screen-by-screen basis.
“If it is effective, this measure [would allow] cinema activity to continue, and spectators to keep going to see the movies, in the context that we know,” he said.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the new restrictions on Friday. The move follows a spike in coronavirus infections in France, which have increased to more than 2,800 confirmed cases, with 61 related deaths.
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