One of the hardest-hit industries during the shin-gata corona-virus, as COVID-19 is called in Japanese, has been movie theaters, as going out to see a movie at the cinema has been unthinkable for the past few months. But recently in Japan, it seems that movie theatres are coming back from the chasm, as popular film releases such as the new Kimetsu no Yaiba film are being met with excitement by moviegoers…provided they follow the safety rules enforced by the theatre chain.
I went to the Toho Cinemas in Shibuya to see the Violet Evergarden film, because it’s such a beautiful series, and I wanted to support Kyoto Animation. The movie was outstanding, more perfect than I could have ever hoped, as pretty much every open question fans of the series had were answered to our satisfaction. We stock the Violet Evergarden side story Blu-ray, and will of course carry this film for collectors when it’s released.
Going to the Movies in 2020
Right off the bat, there rules to follow in order for visitors to safely sit through a film without spreading the virus. Masks must be worn constantly during the film, and alcohol spray for hands and temperature checks are required. On certain days, only every other seat will be available, ensuring enough social distancing, and in these showings, we’re allowed to eat and drink. But on other days when all seats are allowed, eating is forbidden, as it would require that you take your mask off.
I happen to be drinking friends with the manager of the Bunkamura movie theatre in Shibuya, and he told me that it would be a long road for movie theatres to return to any kind of normalcy. He said the extra safety rules turn off some would-be cinemagoers, and having too much space around people robs them of the feeling that they were sharing a movie experience together. Also, many people, including Mrs. J-List, are still unwilling to head out to a theatre when there’s plenty to watch at home on Netflix and Wowow.
This week saw the release of the biggest anime movie of 2020 so far, the Kimetsu no Yaiba film, which was heavily marketed to get people out to the theatres. The film certainly is generating a lot of buzz, and I hope it will be successful for the studios.
Of course, there’s nervousness that returning to normal too quickly could cause the virus numbers to rise. Tokyo’s daily positive Corona test results rise and fall but tend to “spike” after holidays or other events where people might let their guard down. Daily new Corona cases are around 450-500 across all Japan, and around 75 in Tokyo, numbers which can hopefully be managed by medical professionals. The willingness of 99.95 people to wear masks while in public, to exercise good hygiene, and keep a distance from others, is helping Japan get through the crisis fairly well.
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