Despite Government signalling that Theatres and Cinemas are eligible to open for business with new COVID19 health guidelines place, that announcement hasn’t been embraced.
Why the dilemma for this slice of the South African Arts and Entertainment industry?
The answers are multifaceted. On one side of the coin there is the overarching answer given by as illustrated by Ludi Kraus, owner of the Labia Theatre, an independent movie house in Cape Town. “With the rising numbers [of confirmed Covid-19 cases], and that we’re heading to the peak, the overall question is: Is this the right time to open?”
Chantelle Burrows from Nu Metro offers a different take. “I think people want to take a break [from being at home] and they want to do it safely and that’s what we’re offering.”
Another variable in the equation that needs to be considered is the lack of clarity from the Government message about the regulations and protocols in place. Cinemas and Theatres must apply with the Department of Sports Arts and Culture by Monday 20th July for the go ahead. The applications in turn will be subject to approval of regulatory framework. A sticking point is the 50 person rule per theatre or cinema as per government regulations, but that doesn’t answer all the questions. “If it means up to 50 people per cinema, hopefully that would be increased, because it would be difficult to run a complex with 50 people,” said Kraus.
Striking the balance of Health & Safety imperatives verses good old Business sense is a tightrope the industry has to figure out within the context of the COVID19 pandemic. And the Lockdown curfew regulations come into play as a major prohibitive hurdle for Theatre owners. Fahiem Stellenboom, Marketing Manager of the Baxter Theatre states his apprehension without reservation; “The curfew certainly makes it difficult for theatres to operate as most shows only start at 8pm and, even with an earlier, 7.30pm start, it will not be possible [to reopen],”
Accomplishing the dual imperatives of robust public safety guidelines and economic viability has struck South Africa just as it has globally when it comes to COVID19, in the Entertainment and Leisure space, this challenge raises its head once more. It’s not a simple choice.