Theatres in Italy to reopen in June, will the West End follow?
| By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels
Italy, which at one point was the new epicentre for the coronavirus before the United States took over the title, has announced that cinemas and theatres will reopen on 15 June. How will this work and will the West End follow suit?
Italian theatres to reopen for business in mid-June
Italy has announced that the theatres, cinemas, opera houses, and other performance venues will reopen on 15 June. The move has been described by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as a "calculated risk," as the curve could just as easily swing back up as fast as it was flattened.
At the same, Conte implicitly stated it was a necessary step as the Italian economy cannot afford to wait for a vaccine, as it would be increasingly detrimental to businesses. As such, the Italian government also recently approved a €55 billion stimulus package to help boost the economy as the lockdown begins to ease up.
So long as strict social distancing measures are followed, shops, restaurants, cafes, and churches across Italy will be able to reopen as early as today. On 25 May, gyms, swimming pools, and sports centres will be able to reopen, and perhaps in the most ambitious move yet, the country will reopen for EU tourists beginning on 3 June.
Social distancing measures in Italian theatres and cinemas
Performance venues in Italy will still have to follow some social distancing measures, which include staggered seating and online reservations, to help prevent the spread of the virus. Mass gatherings with large groups of people will remain banned.
It's not clear if these measures will be eased, however. Recently, the Austrian State Secretary for Cultural Affairs, Ulrike Lunacek, stepped down after her strict measures were heavily criticised. This included ensuring each patron was guaranteed to have their own space within a 20-metre radius, which meant that some venues would only be able to sell as little as 15 tickets per performance. They would also have to sell tickets at a significant mark-up of €750 or more in order to make up for the loss of income.
Ulrike Lunacek also came under fire for not giving a clear plan of action or time frame for reopening theatres. Should the UK government also fail to have an understanding for the needs of artists and those employed in the entertainment industry during the coronavirus crisis, then a similar backlash could occur with Oliver Dowden, whom Shakespeare's Globe recently urged for more support from the government.
Specific logistical measures for Italian theatre performances are still unknown, but it is likely that at a minimum, attendees will be required to wear masks and have ample access to hand sanitiser.
West End and UK theatres are currently closed until 28 June. But with other countries in Europe beginning to ease measures, it's possible that performances could begin again as early as July. And it's only a matter of time before we start seeing Elphaba face masks being sold at the Apollo Victoria...
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