Most cinemas, theaters, dance halls remain closed in Italy despite being allowed to open

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While catering industry across Italy is busy in welcoming back their guests thanks to the latest stage of easing effective on Monday, the situation in the country's entertainment sector such as cinemas, dance clubs, and theaters is still bleak.

Despite being allowed to reopen, most of such entertainment places chose to keep the shutdown. In Rome, just two of the city's 60 cinemas opened their doors on Monday, with two more planning to do so on Thursday.

Across Italy, according to media reports, only a few dozen cinemas reopened Monday.

Although no national statistics for dance clubs and theaters is available, the evidence shows that the story was similar.

"Why open now? Who would come? Would it be worth the effort?" Massimo Romeo Piparo, artistic director of Rome's storied Sistina Theater in Rome, threw questions in a row.

Piparo told Xinhua that the theater -- which over the years featured iconic singers including Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, and Barbara Streisand and shows that include "Billy Elliot" and "Mamma Mia" -- is now in a "survival mode." That means they have reduced costs to the bare minimum in order to survive until things return to normal.

"We have 19 full-time employees but when there's a show that jumps to more than 200," he said. "With social distancing rules we'd be able to use one seat out of three, but we can't raise ticket prices. We'd lose money every night."

Piparo said the Sistina Theater would probably remain closed until at least September.

Dance clubs faced similar problems, as rules against slow dancing are adverse to their operation. Cinemas have to leave two open seats between each viewer and cannot sell refreshments. For standing-room concert halls, music lovers would have to stand at least 2 meters apart.

According to Felice Laudadio, a cinema critic, commentator, and film producer, cinemas have an extra problem -- no new films to show.

"The blockbusters we would expect to see in March, April, May, and June are all waiting until the situation with the outbreak becomes clearer," Laudadio told Xinhua. "It's a circular argument because producers don't want to release the quality films that are ready until people go back to the cinema, but most people won't go back to the cinema until there are quality films to watch."

Silvia Verticelli, a restaurant cook, said she normally goes to the cinema one or two times a month, but she would likely stay away for the foreseeable future.

"Frankly, the idea of going to the cinema in the summer, wearing a mask and sitting 2 meters from my friends... let's just say I can find better things to do with my free time," Verticelli said in an interview.

But Anna Antenucci, a medical researcher, had a different point of view. She said she normally goes to the cinema on Sundays and will start again as soon as more cinemas reopen.

"I had to go to work on the bus every day during even the worst part of the quarantine and so going to the cinema will not worry me too much," Antenucci told Xinhua. "I miss it. For me, going to the cinema is a way to escape into a different world for a couple of hours. With everything going on in the world now, that seems like an attractive option right now."

Italy has gradually lifted the lockdown imposed on March 10, with catering industry, cultural sites and entertainment sector being allowed to reopen. Italy also opened its borders to travelers from most of Europe. 

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