EXCLUSIVE: Despite the Polish government giving exhibitors the green light to resume operations this week, the country’s major exhibitors say they are planning to take a slow and steady approach to re-opening.
Last week, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that cinemas in the country would be allowed to re-open from June 6 following the coronavirus closures. Stipulations in place include only selling half screen capacity and the mandatory wearing of masks for all audience members.
However, don’t expect to see a flurry of activity on Saturday. Deadline has spoken to reps for several of the country’s major chains and has learned that there is a widespread plan to hold fast and wait for better conditions.
Paweł Świst, President of the management board of the country’s second-largest chain Multikino (which is owned by Euro circuit Vue), told us that it was aiming for a “later date”.
“Considering the safety and comfort of our employees and viewers, Multikino cinemas will be opened gradually at a later date,” he said.
“We approach the re-opening of our multiplexes with calmness and want to be well prepared. We are waiting for the guidelines of the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate regarding the functioning of cinemas after opening. We will strictly follow them, because the safety of our viewers and employees is an absolute priority for us.”
A rep for Cinema City, which has sites across Eastern Europe and is owned by Israeli company Cinema City International, echoed those sentiments. “We are currently waiting to get more details about the restrictions before we can set a date for opening our cinemas,” they explained.
Beyond finalizing the re-opening procedures, Polish cinema operators, much like many across Europe and further afield, are intent on making sure they have a strong enough slate of films to attract potentially hesitant audiences back through their doors once they are open again.
The situation is similar in Germany, where some cinemas have begun to re-open in certain states (mostly independent venues), but as Deadline reported, the economic reality is stopping many more from following suit. There were, however, three multiplex sites that opened in Germany this past weekend (all owned by Vue), though the majority of box office once again came from drive-in locations.
At present, programmers are largely looking at playing films that were screening pre-lockdown, re-introducing successful films from the past twelve months, or showing classics. When it comes to the major box office draws, which are usually Hollywood blockbusters or big local titles, distributors are going to wait until enough of the global cinema real estate is operating at an acceptable level before they roll out their movies. Currently, Warner Bros’ Tenet on July 15-17 is the one everyone is holding their breath for.
In the U.S., UK and elsewhere, promotional campaigns are being designed by national cinema bodies to spread the message that cinemas are back in business, once this is the case. It makes sense for exhibs to have a joined up approach to re-opening to make the biggest possible positive impact. The U.S. campaign is expected to feature A-list stars. A similar campaign is being designed in Poland, spearheaded by the Polish Film Institute.
In some smaller markets less impacted by the pandemic, such as Norway and Czech Republic, some cinemas have been open again for several weeks, but even in those countries many owners have not yet taken the plunge.