Popcorn and kids – that’s the answer to the question: Why aren’t the big movie-theater chains reopening along with the rest of society?
The large movie chains including Yes Planet and Cinema City have been saying for weeks that the current Green Tag regulations will make it hard for them to turn a profit. The rules do not allow them to open their concessions stands, which account for between 40-80% of their profits, and children under 16, who normally make up a large percentage of their audience, especially during the Passover holiday, cannot attend since they have not been vaccinated.
Not being able to fill their auditoriums to full capacity is another problem. And while some in the Health Ministry have been expressing cautious optimism about a return to normalcy soon, if there is a change in the data, there could be another curfew or lockdown during the Passover holiday.
While the numbers of new virus cases are trending downward in the US, many cities there are keeping movie theaters closed, which means that movie studios are not releasing most of their films yet – particularly not those they hope will be blockbusters. There are Israeli movies that are finished and could be released in theaters here but while the chains do show Israeli films, their biggest profits tend to come from the big Hollywood movies. And the major movies for kids that would bring families flocking to movies during Passover are not being released yet.
But cinematheques around the country and the arthouse movie chain, Lev Cinemas, have opened and are showing films according to the Green Tag regulations. Tickets must be purchased in advance. For those who do not have a green passport, these theaters are continuing with VOD (video on demand) as well.
The Lev chain just opened one of its Tel Aviv theaters, Lev Tel Aviv, which is in Dizengoff Center. They are showing two films there now, High Maintenance (in Hebrew, it’s called Dani Karavan), the latest documentary by Barak Heymann, about the 90-year-old sculptor known for his environmental installations. As he works on his latest project, a monument to the Polish nationals who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II, he becomes embroiled in a political and artistic conflict with those who commissioned it. The film won an award for Best Editing at the Jerusalem Film Festival last year and will be accompanied by a conversation with its director.
The other film showing at Lev Tel Aviv is Manele Labidi’s Arab Blues, which was shown at the International Women’s Film Festival last year but was not released due to the pandemic. It stars Golshifteh Farahani, a wonderful Iranian actress who has starred in a number of films, including Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies and Exodus: Gods and Kings, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson and Eran Riklis’s Shelter. She plays Selma, a Parisian psychotherapist who returns to her native Tunis to open up a practice on the roof of her family’s apartment building. It’s a mixture of comedy and drama, as she brings her sophisticated European sensibility to her work with less psychologically minded Tunisians.
The Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Holon and Sderot Cinematheques have reopened and are showing a number of exciting new films and classics. Here are a few highlights from their programs.
At different times during the week, the Jerusalem Cinematheque is showing a number of new films from around the world. These include Max Barbakow’s Palm Springs, which stars Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti in a dystopian sci-fi movie combined with a wedding comedy that is one of the most buzzed-about movies of the year. Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour stars Keira Knightley in a fact-based story of a group of British feminists who decided to protest the Miss World pageant in 1970. The Personal History of David Copperfield is a new look at the Dickens classic starring Dev Patel and directed by Armando Iannucci, who created the series Veep, and directed The Death of Stalin.
The Tel Aviv Cinematheque is screening a number of Israeli movies, among them Smadar Zamir’s In the Director’s Chair Sits a Woman, a look at the history of Israeli women behind the camera.
The Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Holon Cinematheques are also showing the latest film by documentary director Ran Tal (Children of the Sun, the Museum), which is called, What If? Ehud Barak on War and Peace, a look at the former prime minister’s career and political impact.
The new film by Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round, which is shortlisted for the Oscar for Best International Feature, stars Mads Mikkelsen in an offbeat story of a group of teachers who decide that being slightly drunk – all the time – is the best way to live. The film will be shown at the Jerusalem and Holon Cinematheques.