Wednesday, July 21, the 2000 theaters in France must introduce the health pass. To immediately avoid this measure, considered hasty, some operators, such as Laurent Coët at the head of the Regency in Hauts-de-France, prefer to reduce attendance to 50 spectators per screening.
Nestled in an old chapel in Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise in the Hauts-de-France countryside, the Regency is one of the most dynamic cinemas in France. With its single screen, it can accommodate up to 140 spectators per screening with a program printed two weeks in advance. It is one of the cinemas that are organizing to postpone the application of the sanitary pass from Wednesday July 21. And this at least until August 10. For this, he reduced his gauge to 50 spectators per session. Including for Fast & Furious 9 and Kaamelott, two blockbusters guaranteed to attract a lot of young people.
Le FIGARO – Why are you refusing to apply the health pass for the next two weeks?
Laurent COËT – When I heard the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron announce on television Monday July 12 that the health pass would be compulsory in cinemas from July 21, I fell in my chair. Unlike other areas like restaurants, the government only gave us a week to organize ourselves. I am fully united and mobilized in the fight against Covid. And my team is fully vaccinated. Except that, in my very specific case, that of a rural and single-screen cinema, I cannot reorganize myself so quickly. The sanitary pass means that the sessions have to be spaced out, but my fifteen-day program was already printed. I could reschedule my sessions only from August 10th. I weighed the pros and cons: reducing my gauge or canceling sessions.
Concerts and festivals have implemented the sanitary pass without any problem a month ago, how would that be more complicated for cinemas?
Checking the QR code and ID should take about fifteen minutes longer. Out of four sessions a day, I can’t take any lead. The configuration of the cinema does not help. My hall is long with no waiting space. In addition, I have staff on leave. Today, Monday July 19, I am the only one to do everything: the ticketing, the confectionery and the projection. I have to review my whole organization. In a week, that is not possible. Many questions arise: how to manage a group of four people, one of whom will not have a health pass, for example? Unlike concerts, the cinema is often an act of impulse, people do not know that in the next 48 hours, they are going to see a movie. For those who are not vaccinated, this will require a negative PCR test.
“Saving time with the reduced gauge will give me time by mid-August to clearly explain that the health pass is not a constraint but a guarantee of additional security”
Laurent Coët, boss of the Regency in Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise in Hauts-de-France
How will it be for the spectators?
Ultimately, I will partner with neighboring pharmacies to facilitate rapid PCR tests. Immediately, I return to a gauge of 50 people with two empty seats between each spectator and groups. Here we also check that spectators wash their hands well with gel at the entrance. Even though a record number of spectators have returned to the cinema, with rates sometimes higher than in the summer of 2019, I should not refuse too many people. Many families here have gone on vacation.
The health pass has the merit of reassuring knowing that the spectators take off more and more the mask in the cinema. With the circulation of the Delta variant and blockbusters like Kaamelott and OSS 117 that will attract a lot of people, this is a major problem. How are you going to do it ?
I run a small cinema classified Art house on a human scale where the spectator knows the team. We say hello, goodbye, we discuss the film together at the end of the session. With us, they see the same film but differently than in a multiplex with automatic terminals. At the Regency, there is no worry about wearing a mask. Quite the contrary. On the screen, I broadcast three 30-second spots. We do patrols during the film. Finally, I no longer sell confectionery in large format containers. This allows spectators to have finished snacking before the start of the film and therefore to put on their masks. Here, people over fifty are mostly vaccinated, the problem is on 18-40 year olds. Saving time with the reduced gauge will give me time by mid-August to clearly explain that the health pass is not a constraint but a guarantee of additional safety.