Japan’s film screening business, which closed in mid-April in response to the government’s declaration of a state of emergency, is slowly reopening. Japan is the third largest movie box office market in the world behind North America and China
On May 11, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the lifting of a state of emergency in 34 provinces affected by the coronavirus. The remaining 13, including Tokyo and Osaka, are still under emergency counsel until the end of the month, including theater closures.
Toho Cinemas, Japan’s largest exhibition chain, has since announced that it will reopen ten of its theaters in the 34 least affected prefectures on November 15. Some of the major theaters in these regions are back in business.
On Wednesday, another major chain, Ayon Cinemas, also announced a partial reopening. A total of 227 ion multiplexes in 1 prefecture will open their doors from May 18.
On April 1, Ayon closed 92 theaters in 35 provinces and cities, including Tokyo.
Both Toho and Ayon are taking steps to protect theater-passengers, such as requiring all staff to wear masks, provide hand sanitizers at the entrance to the theater, use clean plastic screens to limit interaction with staff, and vacate seats to maintain social distance.
Programming for the reopened theaters is still underway, with screening schedules not yet listed on the Ayon and Toho sites. Although opening dates have been announced for a few of the summer months, the release of all new films, including all Hollywood and local titles, has been postponed.