Half of Italian Cinemas Closed Due to Coronavirus

Francesca Volpi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Milan, Italy

More than 230 people in the country have been infected and seven people have died to date.

More than 230 people have been infected with the coronavirus in Italy, with seven individuals succumbing to the illness thus far. In an effort to curb its spread, five northern regions in Italy — Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia-Giulia and Emilia Romagna — have officially cancelled all public events through March 1, which includes closing all schools, museums, concert halls and cinemas.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has warned that the outbreak and ensuing panic is fated to have a “very strong” impact on the already fragile Italian economy.

As Italy’s highest box office sales are geographically concentrated in the Lazio region and upwards, the effects of the shutdown on the entertainment industry have already been devastating. Box office sales were down 44 percent over the past weekend compared to the previous frame and down 30 percent compared to the same weekend last year.

According to ANEC, the National Association of Cinema Retailers, an estimated 850 cinemas or 1,830 screens, which represent 45 percent and 48 percent of the country’s total, respectively, have been closed in response to the outbreak.

Several releases scheduled for next weekend have already been postponed, including Giorgio Diritti’s Berlinale hit Hidden Away, Carlo Verdone’s comedy You Only Live Once, Bart Freundlich’s After the Wedding, the Japanese manga Lupin III and the local comedy I Change Everything by Guido Chiesa.

Additionally, local productions are also taking a hit. Paramount is making alternate plans for a three-week shoot in Venice for Mission: Impossible 7. The production had hoped to shoot Tom Cruise against the backdrop of the real Carnival of Venice, the legendary annual event which has also been cancelled. Local media reports alleged Cruise was holed up at the ultra-luxe Gritti Palace while waiting to get out of the city.

Francesco Rutelli, president of ANICA, Italy's Association of Cinema, Audiovisual and Multimedia Industries, has called for the country to continue to take preventive measures.

“The film industry is working with authorities to contain and prevent coronavirus. In regions where restrictive measures are also imposed on cinemas, exhibitors and distributors are adjusting in real time,” he said in a statement. “In other parts of the country, business will go on as usual. Of course, these measures have significant economic consequences in Italy, but everyone must implement the necessary measures to get out of this critical situation as quickly as possible.”