India, Poland and some territories in the Middle East are the latest areas where movie theaters are rapidly being shuttered as the World Health Organization on Wednesday declared a global coronavirus pandemic.
In India, individual states have begun closing moviegoing venues. On Tuesday, Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of the Southern Indian state of Kerala, which has a population of more than 35 million, called for cinemas to shut down, with the Kerala Film Producers’ Association immediately following suit.
Meanwhile, the release of big-budget multi-lingual epic “Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea,” starring South Indian superstar Mohanlal, has been postponed. Some 20 movies are being shot in Kerala at the moment. These shoots are likely to be impacted as the number of confirmed cases in the state has risen to 17.
All movie theaters in the Northern Indian region of Jammu and Kashmir are also closed until March 31, it was announced on Wednesday by local officials.
On Thursday, the national capital region of Delhi also shut down cinemas till March 31.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India is now 73. On Wednesday, Mumbai, home to the Bollywood film industry, recorded its first two confirmed cases of the virus.
The Indian government has suspended visas for all inbound travel for foreign nationals.
Poland announced on Wednesday that it is closing all schools, universities, cinemas, theaters and museums for two weeks beginning on Thursday, in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The country has confirmed 26 cases so far but the Polish government is moving swiftly to take preventative measures, given how fast the virus has spread elsewhere, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference on Wednesday.
One of the season’s most highly anticipated titles, Bartosz M. Kowalski’s slasher film “In the Forest, No One Will Sleep Tonight,” was forced to scrap its May 13 premiere. A new release date has not yet been announced. Another casualty of the closures in Poland was “The Hater,” the latest feature from Oscar nominee Jan Komasa (“Corpus Christi”), which was released in cinemas last Friday.
After a strong opening weekend, the film was on track to top 600,000 admissions, according to Jan Naszewski of Warsaw-based sales agent New Europe Film Sales. “Now there is a two-week lockdown on everything, so it’s dead,” he said.
Naszewski said the Polish film industry was struck hard by Wednesday’s announcement, adding that the financial toll would be steep for exhibitors and other cultural venues affected by the shutdown. “The approach is, ‘better safe than sorry,’” he noted.
In the Middle East, Lebanon and Kuwait have implemented movie theatre closures, with the latter country shutting down all public spaces including hotels and even banning all flights from its airport. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are expected to soon follow suit, as far as cinemas are concerned.
Lebanon had experienced a huge 60% drop in admissions over the weekend, while the drop in the UAE had been 15% compared to the previous week, according to a regional distributor.
On Wednesday Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he would block all travel into the country from Italy, South Korea, China, and Iran to prevent coronavirus and gave citizens a four-day period to return from other virus-hit countries before a more extensive flights shutdown.
The vast majority of the nearly 10,000 cases of coronavirus cases in the Middle East are in Iran, but cases of infection in the tiny peninsula of Qatar, which shares a border with Saudi, have risen recently from 24 to 262, according to the WHO.
These closures follow total shuttering of moviegoing venues in China, Italy, Iran and the Czech Republic, as well as partial ones in Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and northern France.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting more than 100 countries around the world with more than 121,000 infections and more that 4,300 deaths. Numbers are escalating, especially in Europe where movie theater closures in more countries are soon expected.
Naman Ramachandran and Christopher Vourlias contributed to this report