by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the attitude of movie-goers in Turkey where cinemas are trying to survive the health crisis.
After a three-month closure as part of the fight to curb the spread of the coronavirus, movie theaters were allowed to reopen on July 1.
But a resurgence of new cases across Turkey has prompted the government to take new restrictive measures.
All businesses, including restaurants and cinemas, must now close at 10 p.m. local time in a bid to halt the spread of the virus, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last week as cases spiked to over 2,300 daily, a level last seen in April.
The decision is another blow to the ailing cinema industry which has seen activities drop by nearly 90 percent and is "bleeding," industry experts told Xinhua.
Movie Theaters Investors Association Secretary-General Fevzi Genc said that theaters in Turkey had lost around 90 percent of their consumers.
"Because of financial distress, between 100 and 150 cinemas are currently closed and will probably never open again. Dozens of other theaters may also follow their destiny," he explained.
Genc noted that they made a good start in 2020, but now the movie theaters are in serious financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In our industry, danger bells are ringing. The effects of this pandemic could have irreversible damage on the cinema industry," Genc warned.
To minimize the risk of infections, seats in theaters have been separated, show timings are staggered, and digital payment are encouraged. Mask wearing and temperature checks are mandatory.
Apart from Turkish productions, foreign productions have constantly been postponed too, the expert said.
Very few Hollywood blockbusters such as Christopher Nolan's film "Tenet" were shown to audiences across Turkey.
Last year, the cinema industry in Turkey enjoyed record-breaking box office returns, with over 59 million viewers and total revenues of 981 million liras (about 127.3 million US dollars), most of which came from domestic movies.
However, for 2020, experts predicted that the audience numbers and general income will go down from last year.
Genc criticized Turkish production companies for their "lack of courage" during this difficult period. "Turkish films which constitute an important part of our products could have been launched during the pandemic, but their production companies feared a loss of income," he said.
The release dates of several blockbusters have been postponed to 2021, leaving local cinemas without big titles to draw back their audiences.
Haldun Armagan, a veteran cinema critic, said that since the start of the outbreak, cinema fans have changed their ways of watching movies, making some movie theaters struggle to stay afloat.
"Viewing a film has essentially become a home activity," he stressed. "With a 10-percent entertainment tax on cinema tickets and theaters allowed to work only with 50 percent capacity, we can say that hard days await the cinema sector."
Armagan remarked that many movie theaters in Turkey will be forced to cease their operations in the coming months, as most movies will be played by digital streaming without being released in cinemas. Enditem