Tokyo Government Gives OK to Theater Reopening  

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The Tokyo city government has announced the relaxation of shutdown measures at cinemas and museums.  This is despite the Japanese national government’s recent extension of the current state of emergency to June 20 for nine prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka.

The new policy goes into effect on Tuesday (June 1, 2021) with restrictions on numbers of patrons, opening hours and the serving of alcoholic beverages in place.

The change comes after the Japan Motion Picture Producers’ Association (Eiren), an industry body comprised of leading producers and distributors Toho, Shochiku, Toei and Kadokawa, issued a statement last week calling for the government to permit the reopening of cinemas.  The statement noted that no infection clusters had been traced to cinemas.

Given that theaters in Tokyo and Osaka account for 35% of all theatrical revenues in Japan, the closure of cineplexes in these major urban centers had dealt a powerful blow to the bottom lines of Eiren members, while leading to release postponements.

Not all of Japan’s cinemas have closed throughout the current SoE, which began on April 25 and later extended on May 11. On May 15, Toho Cinemas, the country’s largest chain, reopened ten venues in seven prefectures with social distancing and other anti-virus measures in place. Also, some so-called “mini theaters,” arthouses that screen the bulk of the hundreds of Japanese indie films released annually, have defied SoE requests, claiming that obeying them would result in bankruptcy and permanent closure.

Japanese SoE declarations do not have the force of law, making compliance voluntary rather than enforced with fines and other penalties.

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