On the second weekend after the coronavirus outbreak in the north of Italy, the country’s box office is down 75% year-on-year and 63% on the previous weekend.
Total gross from February 27 to March 1 was €2m ($2.2m) compared to €8.3m ($9.23m) for the first weekend of March in 2019, according to Cinetel.
Italy is the European country with the highest infection rate from coronavirus. Since the major spike in cases last weekend (February 21), severe measures have been taken by the government to contain the virus in five of the country’s 21 regions (the northern regions of Lombardia, Liguria, Piemonte, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna), including forced closures of movie theatres. The regions facing restrictions are some of the most important for cinema box office as they include the big cities of Turin, Milan and Bologna.
As of March 2, cinemas were allowed to reopen in Veneto and Marche.
The restrictions are expected to stay in place until at least March 8.
Cinemas in regions not directly affected by the outbreak have also seen severe falls in attendance. Specialist outlet Cineguru reports that combined box office in the 16 regions of Italy not facing restrictions was down 53% year-on-year and 34% on the previous weekend. However, Sunday’s figures were not as low, with a fall of 5% on the previous weekend.
Industry crisis meeting
As box office continued to plunge during the week, a representation of producers, distributors, exhibitors and festival managers met with the minister of culture Dario Franceschin last Friday to ask him to declare a state of crisis for the industry (a status that can unblock special funds) and for an analysis of areas where theatres can safely open.
“What we presented to the minister is a set of rational aids,” said Francesco Rutelli, the former mayor of Rome now representing producers and distributors. “We’re talking about tax credits and specific supports for cinema companies and layoffs”.
He sadi the minister gave assurances that measures will be taken as quickly as possible.
Apart from a few smaller titles, the release dates of imminent new releases have been immediately pushed back to avoid playing in deserted theatres. Five films from major distributors slated to come out last Thursday (February 27) and six slated for this weekend (Thursday March 5) have been postponed. In the majority of cases no new release dates have been confirmed. However Disney’s Onward, originally slated for March 5, has been delayed to April 16.
Two Sony titles distributed in Italy by Warner Bros (A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood and Charlie’s Angels) have been postponed with no new date announced.
However, Warner Italy has decided to release The Grudge this week on March 5 as planned. The distributor described the move as “a positive gesture towards the market”.
Additionally Universal Italy has decided to take advantage of the unexpectedly quiet weekend to bring forward the release of Melina Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim to March 5 from April 16. It is also opening Giorgio Diritti’s Hidden Away, fresh from a winning a Silver Bear for star Elio Germano, as planned on the same weekend.