Spain Sets Contingent Dates of May 11, 26 for Shoot Restarts, Theater Re-Openings

Movistar +

Spain’s government has drawn up a timetable of phased emergence from COVID-19 lockdown which sets cautiously estimated dates of May 11 and May 26 for the re-authorization of movies and series shoots and cinema theater re-openings respectively.

Scheduled as Phase One and Two of a easing of COVID-19 restrictions, dates depend on no second spike in contagion, Spanish prime minster Pedro Sánchez stressed when addressing the nation Tuesday night.

No dates were initially given to the phase-out. Those became clearer Wednesday in Spanish newspaper coverage of the government’s recovery plans.

Announcements of the potential lockdown lift on shoots was greeted positively by Spain’s production sector, though with multiple riders.

Spain’s exhibition sector used the news of plans to reopen cinema theaters to call, via trade assn. Fece, for compensation for losses accumulated to date, and in the foreseeable immediate future.

“It’s fantastic news that the government may be able to authorize shoot starts,” said Laura Fernández Espeso, corporate director of The Mediapro Studio, one of Spain’s biggest drama series and film producer-sales powerhouses, whose credits include “The Young Pope,” upcoming Antarctic survival thriller “The Head” and “Official Competition,” starring Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, whose Madrid shoot halt was announced on March 13 .

That said, Fernandez Espeso emphasized, restarting a shoot is “not at all simple nor automatic.” The Mediapro Studio has worked full-on on establishing protocols and best practices and new production designs to allow it to go once more into production on “El Internado,” with Atresmedia Studios, and “Paraíso,” with Movistar Plus.

Re-starts require shoot permits and special permits to employ under-age actors. “El Internado” still has to shoot mostly interiors, which is easier to control than location shooting, Fernández Espeso added.

One obvious shoot which would be relatively safe to restart would be the Movistar Plus/Arte France “Hierro” Season 2, to shoot on the Canary Island which has no new confirmed cases of contagion in the last month.

Shooting majorly on locations, Movistar Plus productions will often present a challenge until Spain’s COVID-19 recovery trajectory is firmly established.

What producers want to avoid is a production restart which has to be halted a second time, said one industry source.

For Spain’s exhibition sector, reopening theaters poses both sanitary and economic challenges. In order to reopen, trade body Fece called on Sánchez’s government to compensate theater owners in proportion to restrictions on occupancy, plus for for an estimated  €100 million ($109 million) in losses occurred since cinema closure. Limiting cinemas to sell just one third of their capacity represents a further €43.5 million ($47.4 million) deficit every month, Fece added.

“Some cinemas will lose more money opening than when they were closed,” said Adolfo Blanco, at A Contracorriente Films. Nevertheless, he will reopen the Cines Verdi, iconic Spanish arthouse theaters, as soon as he can, he said.

The main challenge will be accessing great films, he added.

With profit margins so slim on many arthouse releases, and revenues dependent on theatrical performance, distributors need to release in the best of conditions possible, one said.