Xi’an – Entertainment spaces, like every arena that attracts more than one person these days, are subject to total redesign. With the COVID-19 crisis looming overhead, crunching on popcorn in the company of a packed theatre, for example, seems less of an idyllic Saturday activity. Box offices are suffering everywhere. Cinematic businesses are adapting, though, as restrictions ease: a variety of protective measures are being enforced in auditoriums and drive-ins are advertising themselves on highway billboards with clever quips like ‘Social Distancing Since 1965’.
Despite the hardship experienced by global film industries thus far, there is faith that the cinema will survive this tumult. Pre-pandemic, box-office revenues were higher than ever before – especially in China, where projections estimated that figures would surpass those of the US in 2020. The novel coronavirus, instead, has spelled out at least €1.36 billion in losses for China, reports Forbes. After attempting a partial reopen in mid-March, BBC relays that nearly 500 cinemas in the country (of 70,000, a few of which we've previously covered) were shut down again amid arguments that the conditions were still too unsafe.
All of this doesn’t have to mean that their velvet curtains will be drawn forever. Completed just prior to the 24 January shuttering of China’s theatres, Xi’an’s FAB Cinema’s saving grace may be its sheer unconventionality. ‘Traditional theatres pay more attention to panoramic sound effects and the viewing experience on the screen while they lack creativity,’ explains a spokesperson for the responsible design studio, X+Living. ‘The single business model of selling tickets and snacks … [does that] somehow weaken the experience and expectations that the venue can give the audience? Or ignore the chemistry that can occur between the audience and the theatre?’