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Cinemas reopened in France on Monday for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began in March.
“I only have one word – finally!” Emmanuel Delesse, one of the directors of cinema chain UGC, told AFP as he prepared to reopen the group’s nearly 400 theatres.
Overnight in Paris, the 5 Caumartin cinema opened one minute after midnight for a red-carpet champagne and popcorn sneak preview of the upcoming French comedy, “Les Parfums” (The Perfumes), about a prima donna perfume “nose”, who comes up with new fragrances.
“There are no words to describe what I feel. I have been waiting for this for 99 days,” cinema manager Louis Merle told the 120 people who had queued up for their first big-screen experience since mid-March, when the Covid-19 crisis shuttered projection booths across the country.
“Watching series on Netflix is one thing, but the cinema is something else,” said the film’s star Emmanuelle Devos.
A ‘great day’ for film buffs as France’s 6,000 cinema screens reopen after lockdown
Even though cinemas have reopened, however, they are far from back to normal.
The authorities insist that screenings can never be more than half full with a free seat on either side of each filmgoer and that customers must wear masks as they queue for tickets and in the corridors.
With French as well as Hollywood producers having put back the release of some of their biggest films, there may also be very little new fare to see at first.
Instead, film fans will have to make do with movies like “De Gaulle”, a biopic of France’s wartime leader, the release of which was interrupted by the lockdown.
But that may not deter French cinephiles. “France is at a real advantage in the world for this reopening because, [of France’s] 6,000 screens, 40 percent of them are art houses, which means that French people are more than happy to pay for, quote unquote, old films,” FRANCE 24 Culture Editor Lisa Nesselson said Monday.
A handful of likely Hollywood blockbusters are looming on the horizon for July, led by Christopher Nolan’s thriller “Tenet”, about a spy who must stop World War III breaking out, and Disney’s Chinese historical action epic, “Mulan”.
France is one of the most cinephile countries in the world. A poll earlier this week found that 18.7 million people – almost a third of the population – plan to see a film in the next month.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)