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Cinemas thrilled to reopen, but cap looms as box office bomb

“We are open from Thursday with Tenet, Burnt Orange Heresy, The Translators and the British and Italian film festivals, and we are just delighted to be ramping up,” said Palace Cinemas chief executive Benjamin Zeccola.

Village Entertainment chief Kirk Edwards said: “I am incredibly grateful to be able to welcome movie-lovers back to the cinema and bring our staff back to work. As a Melbourne-based business, proudly operating in Victoria since 1954, the Village Entertainment team is delighted to be able to be part of the state’s recovery.”

Victorian audiences will finally get to be as baffled by Tenet as the rest of the country.

Victorian audiences will finally get to be as baffled by Tenet as the rest of the country.Credit:AP

Multiplex operators such as Village and Hoyts typically operate with an average capacity of about 200 seats per cinema, and will lose money by reopening with a 20-person cap. Even when capacity lifts on November 23 to 100 per theatre, with a rule of one person per four square metres (meaning a likely capacity of between 25 and 50 per cent), cinemas large and small will be running on tight margins.

“Can you make money at 20? Not really,” said Mr Smith. “But it’s two weeks of getting people back out there and building their confidence, and it allows us to make sure our systems are in place for hygiene and sanitation and contact tracing.

“After seven months of being closed, we’re just happy to be open.”

Most cinemas will reopen from Thursday, meaning Victorians will finally have the opportunity to be as baffled by Christopher Nolan’s Tenet as the rest of the country. But Cinema Nova in Carlton will throw open the doors from Monday, with chief executive Kristian Connelly promising to screen up to 25 first-release films that have been denied a cinema release in Melbourne because of the shutdown.

With Rams, La Belle Epoque, the Australian women’s liberation documentary Brazen Hussies and Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho’s serial-killer thriller Memories of Murder among them, Mr Connelly said: “It’s not slim pickings, it’s a genuine cornucopia of cinema.”

He said he was relieved to be given the green light at last, after feeling “we were left out of the road map for many months, which was very frustrating”.

The cinema sector has argued it is being treated more harshly than other hospitality and entertainment venues.


It has cited research it claims proves an infected patron sitting in silence in a cinema is considerably less likely to infect their neighbours than someone exercising in a gym (seven times more likely), eating and talking in a restaurant (14 times more likely), or singing in church (90 times more likely).

Each of those venue types was able to open earlier and has more generous caps than cinemas.

Asked to explain the discrepancy on Sunday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said monitoring of compliance with distancing measures was more viable in a restaurant space than a cinema, because “you’re not going to have anyone walking through a cinema to check on spacing”.

He said cinema was a “high-risk environment that combines both indoors, people who you don’t normally know being in close proximity with you, and that extended period of time you’re together”.

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