UPDATED: The Australian federal government has ordered all cinemas in the country to close, as an additional measure against the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The order was made on Sunday evening local time and takes effect from noon on Monday. The measure could remain in place for several months.
The move is part of a stricter package of measures that will affect all venues that are deemed “principal places of socialization.” As well as cinemas, that includes pubs, restaurants, casinos, indoor sports facilities and places of worship. Restaurants are allowed to operate a take-away service only. Schools remain open.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the tougher measures were being brought in because the earlier calls for social distancing were not being adhered to properly. Australia has also previously imposed strict cross-border travel restrictions.
“Unfortunately, because guidelines can’t be followed, then for public health reasons we now need to take further action which shuts those gatherings down,” Morrison said on Sunday.
Australia has 1,314 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with nearly half of them in New South Wales, the state that contains Sydney and the majority of the Australian film industry personnel. There have been seven deaths.
The Palace cinema chain last week closed all its venues as a precautionary measure. Other chains including Hoyts, Dendy and Event continued to operate, but with capacity reduced to remain in line with government guidelines on distancing.
Film releases had already started to dwindle, a combination of Hollywood studio titles halting their worldwide releases, and local cancellations. Village Roadshow’s “The Current War” was the only title getting a significant release over the weekend.
On Monday morning, Village Roadshow Limited announced the temporary closure of all its cinemas in Australia. It also said that its theme parks in Queensland’s Gold Coast area, Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild, and Paradise Country would also shutter.
Studiocanal Australia last week announced that it would halt its planned distribution of “The Secret Garden.” “After very careful consideration we have decided to postpone the Australian theatrical release of ‘The Secret Garden.’ We have made this decision in the interest of everybody’s health and safety in this potentially high-risk period. We want the biggest possible audience to discover this beautiful film in due course, so for now, we are keeping our secret a little longer,” the company said in a notice.