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Beijing Cancels Reopening Theaters as Capital Enters ‘Wartime’ Mode Amid New Cases

The news arrives just days after Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke called for the industry to reopen its doors.

Man wearing a protective face mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walks past January movie posters outside a cinema in Beijing, . Cinemas across China still remain closed although most restaurants, stores and office buildings has reopened the businesses following the new coronavirus outbreakVirus Outbreak , Beijing, China - 06 Apr 2020

Outside a movie theater in Beijing

Andy Wong/AP/Shutterstock

Beijing, the sprawling capital of China, was just about to enter the U.S. equivalent of phase four of reopening amid the pandemic this coming Monday. But according to SupChina.com, plans to reopen movie theaters, sporting events, other indoor entertainment, and schools were swiftly canceled, as three new coronavirus cases appeared in the area this week. These mark the first new cases in the city in nearly two months. According to Chu Junwei, an official from the capital’s Fengtai district, Beijing is now in “wartime emergency mode,” with food markets shut down as well.

Theaters in Beijing won’t be opening just yet to get the summer movie season going in the capital, which makes up a significant number of China’s moviegoing public. The news of theaters shutting down once again comes just days after Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke (“A Touch of Sin,” “Ash Is Purest White”) took to social media to demand that the film industry, on both the exhibition and production sides, reopen as soon as possible to save “one million” displaced cinema workers.

The shuttering of theaters in China may have contributed to Friday’s Warner Bros. push of “Tenet” from July 17 to July 31, as the studio will need the maximum foreign revenue possible to make releasing Christopher Nolan’s film during a pandemic a success (or at least success-adjacent, which might be all they can hope for at this stage). Assuming most U.S. theaters do open first, China may be able to view reopened exhibition in America as a test case, especially as stateside fears about a possible second wave continue.

Movie theaters in the United States are beginning to open their doors once again, though at limited capacity and with health restrictions. As recently as this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom gave the state permission to open theaters, but at the discretion of individual counties. So far, in and around Los Angeles, drive-in theaters remain the new normal, and exhibitors are trying to make those events and flashy and appealing as possible in the meantime. Just this week, ArcLight Cinemas (still closed in Southern California) and IFC Films announced a partnership to present the film “The Rental” at the Vineland Drive, accompanied by swag and a talent Q&A.

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