Covid crisis, one in ten cinemas in Sicily will not reopen

Silence in the hall. The cinemas that yesterday completed the fourth consecutive month without shows, and which estimate a loss in 2020 turnover of 70.5 percent, are now in danger of never reopening: with refreshments delaying and productions moving increasingly towards streaming platforms, in fact, the managers are starting to evaluate the possibility of giving up the company. For example, Matteo Boscarino, who manages the Astro cinema in Cefalù, thinks so, but from one corner of Sicily to another there are many entrepreneurs who are about to throw in the towel.

There are obviously no official estimates, but one in ten cinemas could be swallowed up by the crisis: “The problem – warns Andrea Peria, vice president of the regional Agis and president of Anec in Palermo – is that even if we were to open close to Easter, the March 27, as now the national government speculates, there would be no product to be sent to the theater. America is at a standstill, and the blockbusters come from there, but in Italy many are taking other paths “.

Palermo, on the steps of the Massimo theater, the protest of the entertainment sector: “Culture cannot close”

by Marta Occhipinti

Yes, because this is a story of social transformation, of changing habits: the transition from the big screen to the much smaller one of Netflix and online platforms. The last blow to the sector was given on Wednesday by Carlo Verdone: “Si vive una volta”, the new film by the Roman director, after a year of waiting, will in fact go to streaming. “We can’t even blame him – snorts Peria – he waited a year for us, then the film would have become old”.

If only he: “Now – says Ignazio Pusateri, who manages the Supercinema of Termini Imerese – there would be ‘Cruella’ by Disney, but that will probably also be released on platforms. America is at a standstill: why should they go out to the cinema for a market small like ours? I only reopen if the conditions are right “. The conditions, for example, last year were not there, and so Pusateri gave up the reopening even in the short autumn window: Boscarino, on the other hand, tried, but relying on a summer opening at the Re arena that he manages in Campofelice di Roccella. “I – he observes – have a rent of € 2,200 per month to pay. But it is difficult: a cinema is not like another company, which can start again immediately. We cannot re-screen the films of two years ago”.

Palermo, the cinema protest: “The theaters are safe”

by Tullio Filippone

And to think that two years ago it looked like heaven. 2017 and 2018 had been years of decline, with production that was not memorable at the box office and a contraction in the sector: “2019 – smiles instead Deborah Sapienza, Anec regional secretary – was a great year, with many beautiful productions”. There were hits for all tastes such as “The Lion King”, “Avengers: Endgame”, “Joker”, “Pain and Glory”, “The Traitor”, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “The First Christmas”, and with those came a lot of satisfaction: of course, among the forty most populous municipalities in Sicily there are ten that do not even have a room in operation, but from 2018 to 2020 the cinemas in Sicily went from 118 to 129 and the active screens from 248 to 269, with a flourishing of activity that photographed the rebirth of an increasingly weak sector.

Looking back at it now, that restart sounds like a joke. There are still those who regret it: structures such as The Screen by Salvatore Palmeri in Milazzo or the Starplays Multisala by Francesco Pipitone in Alcamo have invested tens of thousands of euros to build state-of-the-art systems and close immediately afterwards. “On November 27, 2019 – remembers Pipitone – my wife and I inaugurated the cinema. For my family it is a tradition: my grandfather opened the first room in 1925. We got all the latest technologies, the system is a Dolby Atmos, but we only used it for three months: on March 7 the last show, then the stop “. With a joke: “There are those who have had damage by making the digital projectors stand still – says Sapienza – luckily the ministry has been very attentive”.

Region, signed the refreshment decree for the entertainment world: 222 beneficiaries

The national refreshments were those that allowed the category to move forward: the regional funds are there, on paper, but at the moment they are blocked by an appeal to the TAR. So the managers are now looking to the future: “We – warns Peria – are confident that the regional government will find a solution in this budget too. Quick support is needed. The first half of 2021 will be a key phase for survival”. Because in the room, now, silence has really fallen. For it not to last forever it will be necessary to make an effort.

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