More than half of Portugal’s movie theatres at risk of closing

The crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic has put more than half of Portugal’s movie theatres at risk of closing doors.

So warned the Portuguese Association for the Defence of Audiovisual Works (FEVIP) last week, in a call for more support mechanisms to help movie theatres survive.

“We are going through a dark period, of which no one is to blame, and we have to find solutions that will allow us to overcome this,” the association’s António Paulo Santos told Lusa news agency.

Since November 4, cultural spaces such as movie theatres located in the 121 ‘high-risk’ municipalities have to close by 10.30pm.

The Council of Ministers resolution affects a large part of the country’s 544 movie theatres, most of which are located in the districts of Lisbon (144), Porto (90), Setúbal (48) and Braga (40).

As Santos stresses, this has forced movie theatres to rearrange their schedules, affecting their 8pm screenings – the only ones that were “lucrative”.

“We are talking about more than 50% of movie theatres that could close by the end of the year,” he added.

While he did not question the government’s decision, Santos said it was incongruous as it urges people to stay home but still allows cultural activity “until 10.30pm”.

The association boss also lamented the “very high costs” of screening films in Portugal and called for measures such as low interest rates on loans for movie theatre companies and a more effective way of implementing flexible rent prices, as most movie theatres are located within shopping centres.

Some pay €100,000 in rent every month and around €3,000 in electricity to screen just a single film at a time when they are hard pressed to make €500 or €600 in box office revenue per film, he explained.

According to data from the Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual (ICA), there has been a 71% drop in the number of moviegoers and box office revenue between January and September, but particularly since the pandemic broke out in March.

The recovery in revenue and moviegoers has been gradual but is still a long distance from what it was last year.

Movie theatres registered 3.2 million moviegoers in the first nine months of this year, compared to the 11.5 million during the same period last year.

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