Hong Kong Cinemas Go Back Into Shutdown Amid Virus Flareup

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Hong Kong

Movie theaters in the much larger mainland Chinese market were rumored to be reopening near the end of July, but official word is still not forthcoming.

Hong Kong cinemas, along with The Walt Disney Co.'s Hong Kong theme park, have shut their doors again amid a local flareup of novel coronavirus infections. Across the border in the vastly larger mainland Chinese market, rumors that movie theaters would get the official greenlight to reopen in late July have yet to materialize. 

The renewed shutdown in Hong Kong came in response to 41 local coronavirus cases reported Monday, nearly half of them untraced. Late Monday night, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam held a press conference announcing that the city would be instituting its strictest social distancing rules to date, including limiting the size of all public gatherings from 50 people to four, forbidding dining in restaurants from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m., and shutting down all bars, gyms, cinemas, karaoke parlors and theme parks. The restrictions go into effect Wednesday.

Throughout June, Hong Kong appeared to have beaten the novel coronavirus pandemic, with no new infections reported for weeks. But 182 local cases have been recorded since July 6, with 54 of them of unknown origin, flummoxing attempts at contact tracing. To date, Hong Kong has seen 1,521, confirmed infections and eight COVID-19 related deaths.

Cinemas in Hong Kong were shuttered for six weeks between the end of March and early May — a briefer period than many major markets around the world. On the Chinese mainland, movie theater companies large and small have been going out of business at a rapid clip after nearly six months of sustained closure.

Movie theaters elsewhere in Asia, such as South Korea and Japan, have resumed operation, albeit with caps on seating capacity. Hong Kong theaters were for forced to cancel Wednesday's local premiere of South Korean zombie thriller Peninsula, a follow-up to the 2016 blockbuster Train to Busan.

Analysts tracking Disney were sanguine Monday in response to Hong Kong Dinseyland's resumed shutdown. "We anticipated that flare-ups could cause temporary setbacks such as temporary closures and then re-openings again," Moodys senior vp Neil Begley tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I don't expect any long-term implications or prolonged closures. But re-closures and potential multiple re-closures could continue until the virus is mostly buttoned-down."