Paris cinema that stayed open during the war closes due to coronavirus

One of France's most iconic cinemas is to shut its doors for the month of August because so few people want to risk seeing movies on the big screen in times of coronavirus.

Paris cinema that stayed open during the war closes due to coronavirus
The Grand Rex cinema in Paris will close its doors in August. Photo: AFP

Managers at the enormous Grand Rex in the centre of Paris – which remained open throughout World War II – said Monday Hollywood studios were also to blame for holding back the release of so many of its summer blockbusters.

The Federation of French Cinemas said Monday the double whammy was crippling the industry as they demanded state aid to help them through the crisis.

“Between the drop in admissions (because of the coronavirus) and the lack of fresh American films that traditionally are a big summer draw, we have decided to close our doors from August 3rd,” the Grand Rex's manager Alexandre Hellmann told AFP.

“We will lose less money by closing than by staying open with this depressing box office,” he added.

With 2,700 seats, the seven-screen Grand Rex's largest theatre is one of the biggest in Europe with a 300 square-metre screen.

Many French cinemas have been all but empty since they were allowed to reopen after an eight-week lockdown last month. 

The cinema federation appealed to banks and landlords to give their members leeway, saying it was “absolutely necessary that the government also take urgent action to refinance” the sector.

Blockbusters pulled

Social distancing rules means cinemas are only ever allowed to be half full.

And audiences have mostly stayed away despite a poll finding that nearly a third of the country's population was keen to get back in front of the big screen.

Several cinema managers told AFP that the postponement of “Top Gun 2”, “Wonder Woman 1984” and Christopher Nolan's spy drama “Tenet”, as well as the Disney big-budget family movie “Mulan”, had helped kill the buzz they were counting on to draw people back.

“It is much tougher than we imagined,” said Aurelie Delage, manager of the six-screen Cinemascop Megarama at Garat in western France.

It is so grim in fact that “I am not looking at the figures,” she told AFP.

“This can't last.”

But the lack of competition from Hollywood has helped some smaller French films make an impact at the box office, with the comedies “Divorce Club” and “Tout simplement noir” (“Very Simply Black”) helping to push admission through the one-million barrier last week for the first time since the end of the lockdown.

Several big French releases have also been put back to September and beyond.

A study last week showed the French box office down almost 70 percent on the same period last year with only arthouse cinemas bucking the trend.

Yet the traditionally cinephile French have still been far more enthusiastic about returning to cinemas than their neighbours.

German cinema entries are down to just 17 percent of normal levels and the situation in Spain is even more catastrophic at just 13 percent, according to the Comscore study.



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New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees.