The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan (Eiren) has called on the national government to allow the reopening of cinemas that have been closed under a state of emergency declaration.
In a statement, signed by executives of companies including Toho, Shochiku, Toei and Kadokawa, Eiren argues that the closure was ordered despite a lack of evidence that theaters are the sites of coronavirus clusters.
Without the ability to release films in major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, which account for 35% of theatrical revenues, distributors are finding it hard to turn a profit. Some have delayed releases and written off marketing costs for the postponed films.
While recognizing government efforts to support the industry through subsidies, the statement says that such support does not begin to match revenues from normal business operations. The knock-on effect will be a reduction in film production and, eventually, theater closures.
The statement calls for a reopening of affected theaters on June 1, 2021, following the scheduled end of the present state of emergency on May 31.
The Japanese media, however, is reporting that the government is leaning toward extending the state of emergency, given the high levels of infections in Osaka and elsewhere. One likely scenario, according to sources familiar with the deliberations, is an extension to June 20. This would affect nine prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka.
The current SoE was declared on April 25 for Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures. Its end was later extended from May 11 to May 31, while expanding to include Aichi, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures.
Businesses affected by the SoE are not legally penalized for defying government requests to limit operating hours or close. The film industry has largely followed the advice, though, as the Eiren statement indicates, even major distributors are now reaching the limits of their patience.