Lights, camera, but no action: Groningen cinemas suffer with the side effects of Coronavirus

Facade of the Forum Groningen cinema close to Grote Markt. Photograph: Pedro Rodrigues

Due to Coronavirus social distancing restrictions, the movie industry is suffering with loss of revenue and decrease of investments in productions and related activities. As a result, the Groningen movie business has been affected by the lockdown restrictions and limitation of people allowed in (which is 30 visitors per screening).

According to Gulian Nolthenius, managing director of the Dutch Association of Cinemas & Filmtheaters (NVBF), the projections of losses are a minus 50% in number of visitors and an overall box office loss of approximately 200 million euros.

In Groningen, the movie theaters are noticeably struggling in these limited conditions. The Forum Groningen cinema is one of them, being the most recent cinema theater to open doors in December last year. 

Maureen Wachtmeester, an employee of the Forum ticket office, says that the movie theater was extremely popular during its first opening days, receiving approximately 100.000 visitors in one month. However, due to the lockdown established in the Netherlands, the cinema closed for four months. 

“After a few months we opened again, but not many people were allowed in one room. So we were sold out, which sounds like a lot, but it was only 20 to 30 people per screening”, says Wachtmeester when asked about the business scenario after lockdown. 

Samara Notten, assistant manager at DOT cinema in Groningen, admits a “quite a big financial loss” as the establishment needed to adhere to the new rules, estimating a loss of 200 tickets per screening. 

DOT is a movie theater that also shares space with a restaurant bar. Notten also talks about the different strategies utilized by the establishment to generate extra revenue. “Now it is mandatory to buy a daily meal if the customers want to watch a movie on Wednesdays, so we can compensate for the loss”, she says. 

Cinema is, according to a research by PWC magazine about the possible impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak in Dutch media, the business more likely to suffer with the negative effects of Coronavirus. Gulian Nolthenius confirms this projection, arguing that distributors are not releasing films because they fear they will not recover their previous investments. 

He also says that the situation is extremely difficult, especially considering producers are fully depending on government support to keep the business going forward. In June, the Netherlands Film Fund CEO, Bero Beyer, disclosed to the media a government support fund of more than five million euros to the sector. 

Nolthenius worries for the future of the industry, as he estimates a two years time period of recovery and being self-sustainable once more. 

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