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The first signs of the coronavirus were seen in China and after several months of isolation and distancing, the massive nation seemed to have things under control. Over the past couple of weeks, life seemed to be slowly returning to normal, with several of the country's movie theaters having already reopened. However, the decision has now been reversed and all movie theaters are once again closed, with no explanation.
While no reason was given for the change in direction, the obvious connection to make is that the fear of coronavirus spread is not over, and there's fear that with theaters open infections might explode once again. A source tells THR that the expectation is that this second closure won't be a short one, and that China is taking this all very seriously, and very slowly, to ensure that there are no future outbreaks.
There was certainly a lot of hope surrounding the reopening of movie theaters in China. For both the domestic and foreign film industry, it meant movies that had been waiting for release in China might finally get a chance, and the studios that have been at a financial standstill might be able to get back to business. There was even a plan being put in place by the China Film Group to re-release popular movies, like China's The Wandering Earth and the Avengers franchise, as a way to try and get people to return to the theater. Now, that's all on hold once again.
When closures of places where people gathered, like sports arenas or Disneyland, first closed, those that put reopening dates in place only put them a couple of weeks off. Now, however, places like Universal Studios have extended the closure period well into April, and there really is no clear way forward at the moment.
Studios have been proactive and have released many films that were in theaters prior to the closure on digital platforms so that audiences have a chance to see them somewhere. Films as far out as July have been pulled from their release dates, most with no future date in place.
Odds are that movie theaters, and most other aspects of normal modern life, will open up in China before they do in the rest of the world, so eyes will continue to be on the country to get an idea what the future holds for the rest of us. Hopefully, that normal future isn't too far away.