France President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that cultural venues, including movie theaters, will be allowed to reopen on May 19 with a 35% seating capacity, according to reports.
The capacity will grow to 65% on June 9 before being fully lifted on June 30— just in time for the Cannes Film Festival, which is scheduled to kick off July 6. The 7 p.m. curfew, meanwhile, will be pushed to 9 p.m. starting May 19. This will allow theaters to maintain one screening in the evening, which bodes well considering they’ll be operating at 35% capacity for several weeks. Meanwhile, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to reopen June 9.
The curfew will be further pushed to 11 p.m. on June 9 before it is altogether lifted on June 30. Macron said events convening up to 5,000 people will be allowed to go ahead through special permissions. A “sanitary pass” is being discussed, but details about what it means have yet to be unveiled. Sources at the Cannes Film Festival previously told Variety that they would not make the vaccine a prerequisite for registration.
The country’s vaccine roll-out had a slow start and although the pace has gotten quicker in recent weeks, only 9% of the population has received two shots of the vaccine, according to France 24. On Monday, the health ministry reported 5,952 new Coronavirus cases in France — the lowest week-on-week increase since early March, according to Reuters.
Cinemas have been shuttered since Oct. 30 to curb the second wave of the pandemic, along with museums, drama theaters and all cultural venues.
While he awaits an official confirmation about the reopening’s timeline, Marc-Olivier Sebbag, the general delegate of the National Exhibitors’ Association, greeted the news with enthusiasm. “The progressive lifting of the curfew and the fact that it will be a nation-wide reopening, rather than a regional one, are excellent news,” said Sebbag, who also rejoiced about the fact that Cannes will be able to take place in fairly normal conditions with full screenings.
Speaking about the backlog of more than 400 movies awaiting a theatrical release, Sebbag said many movies will have to schedule their roll-out as soon as movie theaters will reopen rather than wait for the summer when French and American blockbusters will start coming in. “Theaters are going to reopen in three weeks with hardly any movies, it’s a great opportunity for a lot of French films to shine as they did last year when there were no U.S. movies on the horizon,” said Sebbag.
Looking for ways to ride out of the storm of releases, France’s independent distributors belonging to the guilds DIRE (Distributeurs Indépendants Réunis Européens) and DIRE (Distributeurs Indépendants Réunis Européens) have joined forces to cooperate on the schedule of their respective releases. The initiative has received a positive feedback from the anti-trust board. However, none of the bigger players – Gaumont, SND, UGC, Pathé, Studiocanal and Metropolitan FilmExport — are so far part of discussions.
Anticipated upcoming releases in France include “Nomadland” which Disney has scheduled for June 9 and “Black Widow” in July. UPI France, meanwhile, has Anne Fontaine’s “Presidents” set for June 30 and “Fast & Furious 9” on track for July 14.
Gaumont will release its comedy “Family Swap” on June 30 and Nicolas Bedos’s spy spoof “OSS 117: From Africa With Love” on Aug. 4. As previously announced, UGC will bow Leos Carax’s “Annette” in theaters on July 6, simultaneously with its world premiere at Cannes on opening night, and in competition.