Australia & NZ Cinemas Update: Some Indie Venues Re-Open But Chains Will Wait For More Movies

Australia & NZ Cinemas Update: Some Indie Venues Re-Open But Chains Will Wait For More Movies

Here’s the latest update on the prospects for cinemas re-opening in Australia and New Zealand, which according to 2019 stats is the world’s ninth biggest box office market.

New Zealand has hit the headlines recently with its successful handling of the coronavirus and the positive relaxing of its lockdown, with cinemas now allowed to re-open in the country. The green light, however, hasn’t resulted in a huge amount of activity, with the vast majority of venues left shuttered, including the top three chains Reading, Hoyts and Event.

According to Michael Hawkins, executive director of the National Association of Cinema Operators Australasia, the issue is as much to do with a lack of available movies to screen, as it is to do with gathering restrictions, which presently limit group sizes to 10 (expected to increase to 20 next week) and 100 people max in any one space at a time.

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Roughly 30 indie venues have now re-opened in New Zealand, mainly in smaller regional locations. A number of those are buildings with cafes attached, so are able to trade off food and beverage, which offsets revenue lost from ticketing.

Major chains are said to be eyeing a mid-to-late June re-opening, though this again is subject to product availability. If Warner Bros’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan both hold their dates (July 16 and July 23 respectively in Australia and New Zealand) that will be something to aim for, but there are schools holidays at the beginning of July that could be a boost for venues if they can get audiences in. Most likely, exhibitors will look to re-program films that they were playing pre-lockdown, such as Emma and The Invisible Man, and Hawkins says distributors are supportive of this aspiration.

This past week, New Zealand recorded grosses of $70,892, an average of $2,445 per location. As we reported on Tuesday, Australia had a $44,000 gross from drive-in venues.

In Australia, cinemas will be allowed to re-open in the Northern Territory from June 5, while South Australia has set June 8 as its date and Queensland is aiming for June 12. Hawkins forecasts that, like neighboring NZ, the major exhibitors, such as Event Cinemas, Hoyts and Village, will wait until it is economically sensible to open rather than rushing to return back to business. A proposed limit of 100 people per auditorium would make operating feasible but not necessarily profitable, noted Hawkins, and would result in taking a significant hit at peak trading times.

As the date edges closer, the organization is hoping to establish uniformity between the major exhibitors across states and territories regarding the re-opening dates and conditions.

The org has published some initial procedures for operating cinemas safely, which you can see below.