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Paris's Grand Rex cinema closes doors due to lack of clients, blockbusters

The Grand Rex, Paris's 2,800-seat theatre that stayed open during World War II, is to close temporarily in August 2020.
The Grand Rex, Paris's 2,800-seat theatre that stayed open during World War II, is to close temporarily in August 2020. AFP - MIGUEL MEDINA
3 min

The Grand Rex cinema in Paris, Europe's largest theatre, says it will temporarily close its doors from 3 August due to a lack of clients and the delayed releases of new films from the United States. It comes as the global cinema industry struggles to get back on its feet after Covid-19 lockdowns across the world.

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The Grand Rex published a message on Facebook on Monday thanking its customers for their support despite the health restrictions in place, and explained the reasons for temporary closure.

"We are making this temporary decision to address the reality of the moment and the global situation related to Covid-19."

"After one month of reopening our beautiful cinema, we thank you for being there to celebrate the 7th art. We were able to screen a worthy programme of retrospectives, cult films and marathons and many of the sessions were full. You respected the social distancing and we congratulate you for that."

The message went on to explain that the main reason the cinema was closing was the lack of new films, particularly from north America.

"Considering the complicated situation with regards to the virus in north and south America, they have had to close their cinemas and new films are postponed each day," the message said.

The national federation of French cinemas (FNFC) confirmed the pessimistic outlook across the industry, greatly affected by the three months of lockdown due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

US blockbusters absent

But even since re-opening on 22 June, there has been a slowdown in general, with theatres across the country two-thirds empty, 25-30 percent of the usual number of customers.

The federation's president Richard Patry said the lack of blockbusters to pull in the crowds had made the situation even more precarious.

The US market represents 70 percent of films shown in cinemas during the summer and, without fresh options, the public is naturally less interested, he said. 

On top of that, the social distancing requirements to curb the spread of the virus means only one out of every two seats can be used, and spectators must wears masks before they enter the cinema.

Call for economic aid

The Grand Rex, an Art Deco cinema which opened in 1932 and stayed open during the Second World War, has a record 2,800 places. 

"The month of August is usually the quietest month for us, seeing as most Parisians are on holiday, and so we're likely to see even less people than usual,"  a spokesperson for the Grand Rex told the press, without giving an exact date for reopening.

"I lose less money remaining closed than to ask my teams to come back with nothing to do, it's depressing," Grand Rex owner Alexandre Hellman told BoxOfficePro.

He said he will wait to see how the situation evolves, indicating that he hopes to reopen with a Harry Potter marathon on 26 August.

"If 90 percent of cinemas have reopened, it's mainly out of civic duty, because they're losing a lot of money," Patry told France Info.

Last week, several independent cinema owners from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, concerned about their industry's economic future, signed a joint letter published in Liberation newspaper, calling on the government to provide an emergency aid package.

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