Anticipating that the Japanese government may again call for movie theaters to temporarily close in Greater Tokyo due to an upsurge of coronavirus cases, Toho Cinemas and other leading exhibitors are halting sales of advance tickets for cinemas in the areas. In recent years Japan has been the world’s third most valuable theatrical market behind North America and China.
Toho Cinemas, the nation’s largest chain, said in a Monday statement that it would stop accepting orders for tickets sales beyond two days in advance and that from Jan. 8, 2021 it would only sell same-day tickets for the theaters in Tokyo and neighboring Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures. Other major exhibitors, including United Cinemas, Aeon Cinema and Grand Cinema Sunshine, have made similar announcements.
Theaters all over Japan previously shut down from early April to late May last year in response to a nationwide state of emergency that the government declared in response to the virus. The second shutdown call, however, is geographically limited and expected to last about a month. Compliance to such calls is voluntary, due to limits on stronger government action imposed by the constitution.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide told media that he will announce his decision regarding another state of emergency in Greater Tokyo on Thursday.
On Monday, Greater Tokyo reported 2,530 new COVID-19 cases. In recent weeks case numbers have climbed as colder weather has driven people inside. Many people celebrated the New Year’s holiday with gatherings of family, friends and co-workers, despite urgings by health officials to stay home as much as possible.