Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Sunday that cinemas nationwide will close Monday as part of what he called “stage one” of social distancing policies meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Along with cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, indoor sports venues, pubs and places of worship have also been ordered to close by midday tomorrow, while restaurants will be restricted to takeout only. Schools and shopping centers will remain open for now, though Morrison said that stricter measures may be taken if Australians do not listen to medical officials urging social distancing to prevent transmission of the virus.
“If Australia is going to get through the challenge of this pandemic over the coming months, we have to live differently. We’ve been making that point very clear over the last week. But it’s also clear that some people haven’t got it,” Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said. “The PM has said people have not been getting the messages and we have had to take, we’ve recommended unanimously that these fairly dramatic and drastic recommendations be put in place because we have to stop those situations where viruses pass readily.”
According to the Motion Picture Association, Australia contributed over $900 million to last year’s $42.2 billion global box office total, ranking 10th among all overseas markets.
As movie theaters around the world, including the U.S., have closed their doors in response to the pandemic, the global movie theater industry is expected to lose tens of billions of dollars in profits, as all major markets are expected to remain shut down at least until early June. Theaters in the U.S. have announced closures for as long as 12 weeks, but medical experts warn that the pandemic could last through the summer if social distancing isn’t maintained. In the meantime, theater owners are asking Congress to approve relief legislation this week that would allow theaters to receive loans and tax deferments that could help them avoid bankruptcy during the closure.
According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, over 13,000 people have died worldwide from coronavirus while over 335,000 cases have been reported; though millions are believed to have contracted the virus and simply have not been counted due to insufficient testing in countries like the United States.