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Cinemas Unhappy as State of Emergency Is Extended in Tokyo

Movie Theater Exhibition Crisis Placeholder
©Raymond Depardon / Magnum Photo

The Japanese government has formally extended the state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo Prefecture, which was originally scheduled to end on May 11, until the end of the month. It has also added Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures to the SoE list.

This is the third such state of emergency announcement since the start of the pandemic. Also, measures to prevent the rapid spread of the virus will be in place in a total of eight other prefectures until May 31.

During the current state of emergency, which started on April 25, theaters in the affected cities and prefectures, including those of Toho Cinemas and other major chains, closed their doors. Also, releases of some films were delayed.

Under the new extension, businesses with a total floor area of more than 1,000 square meters, including movie theaters, will be allowed operate with an 8:00 pm closing time. But prefectural governors may call for shutdowns, based on their judgement of the situation in their prefecture.

On Thursday, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, Japan’s largest national trade union organization, issued a statement protesting movie and legitimate theater shutdowns, saying that “not one case of infection has been attributed to audience seating arrangements in theaters” and added that government calls for theater closures “do not take the actual results into account.”

The statement also noted that shutdowns of theaters in Tokyo and other metropolitan areas drove audiences to other theaters in neighboring prefectures. “This has the effect of increasing the movement of people” and thus heightening the risk of infection, the statement said.