Covid-19 sees French cinemas lose 70 percent of their spectators in 2020

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The number of cinema-goers in France dropped by nearly 70 percent in 2020, according to the latest figures. This due to lengthy closures and restrictions imposed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. For French cinema owners, who don’t know whether they will re-open in January, the situation is at breaking point.

In its annual report released on Wednesday, the National Centre for Cinema (CNC) revealed that due to the lockdowns and restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 crisis, the number of people going to the cinema in France dropped by a whopping 69.4 percent in 2020.

This means only 65.10 million entries compared to 213.07 entries in 2019 - in a country where going to the movies is one of the nation's favourite pastimes.

"2020 was marked by the Covid-19 pandemic which lead to the closure of cinemas for two lockdowns, totalling 162 days in total," said the report.

On average, each year since 2010, the CNC says twenty or so films bring in at least two million viewers. This year, only three films did that : Tenet by Christopher Nolan (2.3 million), 1917 by Sam Mendes (2.2 million) and Sonic by Jeff Fowler (2.1 million).

"Twelve films managed to pull in more than one million viewers, compared to 50 films over the past decade. No film managed to get over three million entries in 2020."

French films saw their public draw back slightly less than American blockbusters and films from other nationalities: -60.7 percent, compared to -76.7 percent and -69.4 percent respectively.

This was due mainly to the slowdown in the production and distribution of American films since the beginning of the pandemic, many of which have resorted to online platforms for new releases.

French films get ahead of US market

In 2020, French films clocked up 29.2 million spectators, more than their American counterparts which reported 26.6 million entries.

"This hasn’t happened since 2006," the CNC said, adding that the market share of French films registered 44.9 percent in 2020, higher than American films (40.8 percent) and those of other origins (14.3 percent).

For French cinema owners however, the crisis is far from over, with the industry up in arms over the prolonged closure, until at least 7 January.

Prime Minister Jean Castex last Wednesday justified the decision to keep museums, theatres and cinemas closed after 15 December, the date they were supposed to reopen due to the ever-rising figures of Covid infections.

In an open letter published on Twitter, he said that he "understood the anger and discouragement," felt by those who represent cultural industries in France.

He pointed out that the minister for culture Roselyne Bachelot was preparing a new proposition for the coming months, which would look at the possibility of a gradual reopening of venues until the epidemic is under control.

With 2,000 cinemas nationwide, the future of the big screen, which has attracted 200 million spectators per year on average for the past ten years, is in jeopardy.

One small hope on the horizon for the industry lies in the proposition for a Europewide rule to force online streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime ou Disney + to contribute to national cinema industries and local creative development.

Bachelot says this could be worth 150-200 million euros per year to support the French cinema industry.

(with AFP)