Dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases, France has imposed a nightly curfew in Paris and eight other cities, which could potentially put some film releases and shoots on ice.
Announced by President Emmanuel Macron during a televised address on Wednesday, the curfew will kick off on Saturday and remain in place for six weeks, running from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day.
For France’s culture sector — cinemas, plays and other performances — the new rule could be a fatal blow because most evening shows start at 8 p.m. For movie theaters, the curfew will mean that two nightly screenings will have to be axed.
Up until now, theater exhibitors have been able to keep admissions at an acceptable level in the absence of U.S. blockbusters thanks to a fairly strong offer of French films, but the situation could quickly deteriorate. Admissions in France have been 62% down over the first nine months of this year.
Local distributors who have been preparing to release their movies in a big way in the next few weeks held crisis meetings on Thursday morning to discuss their gameplan and options, notably Gaumont with Valerie Lemercier’s “Aline,” the Celine Dion-themed movie (pictured) and Albert Dupontel’s “Adieu les cons,” and Le Pacte with Maiwenn’s “DNA.”
The National Exhibitors Assn. (FNCF), as well as other bodies within the culture sector, are in talks with the French government to obtain a special permit allowing customers to attend evening screenings and events that end after 9 p.m., said Marc-Olivier Sebbag, spokesperson for the FNCF. He explained this permit could be crucial to ensure that distributors maintain their releases. “Exhibitors have so far said they will stay open and they desperately need these local films to come out as planned,” said Sebbag.
Nathanael Karmitz, CEO of MK2, which operates a leading arthouse cinema circuit in Paris, said the chain’s theaters will stay open even if the curfew stays at 9 p.m. for moviegoers. “We will stay open and the screenings will end at 8.30 p.m. to give people enough time to go home, and we’re preparing some surprises,” said Karmitz.
Filming — and in particular exterior shoots — is also expected to be subjected to the curfew, said Michel Gomez, executive director of Mission Cinema, which coordinates shoots in Paris.
“We’re discussing with authorities but we’re getting a sense that there won’t be nuances and exceptions made for filming — up until now, we’ve been very privileged and the number of shoots that we have been able to host is amazing compared with other capitals in the world but I don’t think that will continue,” said Gomez.
Among the productions shooting at night in Paris is Jacques Audiard’s “Paris, 13th District.”
Marc Missionnier, who runs the Paris-based banners Moana Films and Lincoln TV, said he was getting ready to start filming the second season of the series “Mental,” and hopes that film crews will be able to obtain a special waiver to work at night.
During his televised address, Macron said France will likely be dealing with the pandemic until next summer, which means large gatherings might be banned until then. Although Cannes isn’t being targeted by the curfew, hosting large-scale events such as MipTV or the Cannes Film Festival if the pandemic is still active could be problematic.
The festival is discussing with the City of Cannes, as well as regional authorities, to prepare a contingency plan in July or October in case it can’t take place in May. “We have learned our lesson this year and we can say today that next year’s festival will be maintained; if not in May, it will be organized at a later date in 2021,” said a source at the festival.
Elsewhere in Cannes, Reed Midem is wrapping a virtual edition of Mipcom and said it was preparing to return to Cannes in 2021 with a physical edition of MipTV on April 12-14, which will also include a virtual component. Canneseries, the festival dedicated to international drama, will run alongside MipTV. This past week, Canneseries stayed the course and went ahead as a physical event despite an in-person Mipcom getting canceled.
France’s coronavirus cases have reached almost 27,000 daily. Impacting about a third of the French population, the curfew will be set in Paris and its region, as well Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Rouen, Saint-Étienne and Toulouse.