France, Italy, and the U.K. – three of Europe’s largest theatrical markets – are on track to re-open cinemas by the end of the month, as pandemic restrictions are eased. Both exhibitors and moviegoers are eager to take this initial step on the road back to normal times. In the U.K., cinemas will be allowed to re-open beginning the week of May 17th, France has set May 19th as the opening date for its theatres and major Italian chains have scheduled re-opening in the mid-May timeframe.
The topics du-jour among exhibitors are specifics around the film release schedule and the timeline for lifting the initial restrictions on maximum capacity at the theatre. The summer fare may rely heavily on Hollywood films since U.S. Studios are eager to get the product back in the theatrical marketplace and the U.S. itself appears to be further along in the timeline for re-opening. Despite a backlog of locally produced films waiting for their release, European distributors may hold back opening their biggest films until later in the year, waiting for moviegoing habits to return.
Tim Richards, CEO of European cinema giant Vue International, projects that it will take at least 18-24 months for the European box office to return to the heights of 2019. “It shows the impact this pandemic has had on our business: you’re losing 3-4 years to get back to the same place.”
See also: AMC Controls More of Movie-Theater Market as U.S. Reopens, CEO Says (Wall Street Journal)