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ECONOMY

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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MONEY

Cutting back and applying for benefits: How the weak pound has impacted Brits living in France

In recent weeks, the pound has become weaker when compared to other currencies, namely the euro. This has made life more complicated for Brits living in France. The Local asked readers to share their experiences - and advice - for others who find themselves in the same situation.

Cutting back and applying for benefits: How the weak pound has impacted Brits living in France

While the pound is still low when compared to other currencies, it has recovered somewhat since its drop after the British Chancellor’s mini-budget.

As of October 5th, the exchange rate was £1 to €1.14. For British people living in France who receive income in pounds sterling – whether they be pensioners or others with financial interests still in the UK – the drop in the pound’s value has had negative impacts.

The Local reached out to readers to hear how they have been affected by the exchange rate. Many offered their tips for navigating the current economic landscape.

Many readers found life still affordable, but expected to be more severely impacted in the future. Retiree A. Wood, who lives in Haute Vienne, said that “The recent drop in the value of the pound will not immediately affect me. If it remains low for more than a year then maybe I will have to do some calculating.”

Pensioners especially said that life in France had become “more expensive” and “costlier” for them, but being aware of price rises and managing the changes “with care” were plausible solutions for the time-being.

In general residents of France are better protected from inflation than many other European nations, thanks to government initiatives such as energy price caps and fuel rebates, but prices for many everyday items such as food have been rising steadily.

One respondent, Nigel Harrison, a retired former business consultant, said that weak pound has “not made life unaffordable, but worrying.” 

Meanwhile, some readers, all of whom are also retired, said that they were starting to feel more serious impacts of the exchange rate.

Retired librarian and micro entrepreneur, Pat Hallam, who has been living in Paris for the last two years, said that she receives her career pension in pounds, which she later transfers into euros by way of her French bank account.

She explained that she already works to supplement the cost of life in Paris, but now she expects to have to take on extra work.

She expects to also “cut back on things like socialising, eating out and culture.”

“Explaining this to friends will be hard, and it is what makes living in Paris a pleasure. I know the cost of living would be cheaper in other parts of France, but I’ve spent the last 2 years building a life in Paris, my dream destination. I would be very disappointed if events across the Channel forced me to move away, or even back to the UK,” she said.

READ MORE: The best banks for non-EU citizens living in France

Pat is not alone – Tom Baker, who is retired and lives in south-west France – said, “All my pensions are from the UK and the drop in exchange is definitely felt, coupled with the loss on transferring the money to France as I have five pensions.”

Baker explained that having his income drop has been particularly difficult “as a 74 year old with two young sons aged seven and 10” and amid “the present financial climate the cost of everything is spiralling.” 

Many readers said they would try to live on savings while waiting for the value of the pound to rise again, which has also posed its own problems, as many British bank accounts have begun closing the accounts of non-UK residents. 

John Stanley Mumford found himself in this situation, he said: “I have a pension in pounds. I will live on savings until the value of pound goes up! But, Barclays bank is to close my account as I am a French resident, so basically I’m stuffed!”

READ MORE: Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in France

Non-pensioners have also felt the impacts of a weak pound. One respondent discussed the dilemma of attempting to sell their UK home, and worrying about whether they should leave the money in pounds or transfer it to Euros afterwards. Others worried about their UK savings accounts.

Respondents did offer helpful advice for others in similar positions – ranging from tips to try to hold out for a better exchange rate to recommendations for how to become thriftier – like getting rid of unused streaming services and cutting back generally. 

Tom Baker said he recommends transferring funds “perhaps every three months to reduce the cost of transfer fees, which since Brexit have really increased.”

He also said that he checks the daily rate “for a week or 10 days before the transfer is needed to try and get a better each rate.” Others said if possible – wait until the pound recovers.

However, for those unable to hold out until the pound is stronger, several readers recommended apps and international banking services, such as Wise and Revolut as handy ways to find better exchange rates and avoid high fees when transferring between a UK bank and a French one. 

Finally, Pat Hallam counselled Brits living in France to consider applying for welfare benefits if necessary. She said even if you’ve never considered it, “either out of pride or because you didn’t think you were eligible, maybe now’s the time to look again.”

She also recommended tracking energy use more carefully via a smart metre: it “takes three months’ use before you can start comparing consumption but it helps keep track of your energy use.”

READ MORE: Living in France: How to cut your household energy use by 10% this winter

Many thanks to everyone who took part in our survey and shared their experiences and tips.

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