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This week has seen further movement in the spread of COVID-19 and its effect on the cinema business.

In Belgium, major exhibitor Kinepolis has closed all its sites until 31 March, after consultation with the local health authorities. In other countries where it operates, the situation is also being monitored and in some there are measures in place to reduce occupancy levels.  The group is compensating customers for tickets pre-bought. Kinepolis expects this to have an impact on its financials for the period.

In India, the authorities in Delhi, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir have shut down cinemas until 31 March. This will impact the release of a number of local films.

In the Middle East, Lebanon and Kuwait have also moved to close cinemas. Lebanon registered a 60% drop in admissions over the last weekend.

In Europe, on the 11 March Poland closed all cinemas (as well as schools, universities, museums and theatres) for two weeks, following on from similar action in the Czech Republic. Italy also shut all its cinemas last weekend.

In Denmark, Norway and Greece, cinemas have also now been shut by the authorities, for a period of two weeks.

In Ireland and Romania, cinemas have been told to limit their numbers attending the screenings to 100 people.

There were already closures or partial closures in China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, France and Italy.

UK exhibitor Cineworld has put out a statement saying that three months closure would profoundly affect its business. However, to date, there has been little effect and cinemas in the UK remain open for now. The same is true of cinemas in the USA, which have not experienced any widespread closedowns. The company says it will reduce the worst of the impact via cost cutting and postponing capital spend.

Several film festivals have also been postponed or cancelled, including Beijing International Film Festival, South by Southwest, Prague International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and a long list of others.

The largest annual gathering for the cinema industry Cinemacon was also cancelled during the week, after Europeans were no longer allowed entry to the USA.

As at March 13th, on the distribution front, several titles have now confirmed a postponement of their release. The biggest amongst these is Disney’s Mulan, which it is delaying due to ‘an abundance of caution’. The title was scheduled for March 27 release. It is also postponing The New Mutants and Antlers, both scheduled for April. Paramount has postponed the release of A Quiet Place II (March 20) and Universal is delaying Fast and Furious’ F9 (May 2020) until April 2021. Sony has moved the European release of Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway from March to August 2020.