The hero of this story is the national movie industry, and the villain is Covid-19. A happy ending is not yet in sight.
“Theater attendance remains at an all-time low (…) The situation is unsustainable and new closures could have irreparable consequences,” reads an official statement from the National Chamber of the Film Industry (Canacine), dated December 22.
Nevertheless, Mexico City and State of Mexico authorities have decreed a red alert level from December 19 to January 10, which means the closure of movie theaters. This measure is to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
Canacine responds to this by saying that “movie theaters aren’t areas of contagion,” and that attendance takes place with very little social interaction and physical distancing between seats.
“According to exit polls this year, 95% of attendees say that their movie theater experience has been positive. Furthermore, health and safety protocols have been established to guarantee care of public health,” says Canacine president Fernando De Fuentes Sainz in an interview for Tec Review.
In Mexico, there are 950 movie theaters, of which 111 are in Mexico City, and 116 in the State of Mexico. Almost a quarter of the total is found in these states.
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Like a horror movie
62 million movie theater tickets have been sold this year in Mexico, while 335 million had been sold by mid-December last year, which is a drop of more than 80%. However, these losses would be 96% if we counted from March 25 (the start date of the health emergency).
“I didn’t imagine the drop we’d have in theater attendance at the beginning of the pandemic. What’s happened to the Mexican film industry since the contingency was declared is an economic tragedy,” says De Fuentes Sainz.
To put it in numbers, ticket sales alone have lost more than 14 billion pesos this year.
“It’s been a brutal crisis during the pandemic. It’s terrifying,” says De Fuentes, who points out that at least 40,000 direct jobs and 150,000 indirect jobs depend on this industry.
“Unfortunately, 12 of the big chain movie complexes had to close. They weren’t the best performers before the pandemic, but the crisis ended up shutting them down,” explains this film expert.
De Fuentes claims that half the number of films (223) were released in the country during 2020 compared to last year. “This also added to the horror show.”
The president of Canacine doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel coming in the first quarter of 2021, but a little later.
“Recovery will begin from the second quarter. By the fourth quarter, we’re expecting to be more or less at the attendance rates we had in 2019,” he concludes.