French distributor Pathé has delayed the release of its big-budget historical drama “Eiffel,” starring Romain Duris (“Vernon Subutex,” “Mood Indigo”). The film is one of several that have been hanging in the balance as the French box office takes a major hit due to a mandatory COVID health pass for cinemas.
The film, which will receive its French premiere on Aug. 24 at the Festival du Film Francophone d’Angouleme, was due to be released commercially on Aug. 25. However, the distributor said on Tuesday that “Eiffel” will now reach multiplexes only on Oct. 13.
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No reason was specified by Pathé for the delayed release, but current coronavirus conditions and the possibility of a fourth wave in France due to the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus are clearly a major concern. On Monday, France recorded 5,184 new cases and 51 deaths, according to local authorities. The vaccine rollout has accelerated at an unprecedented pace, but as of Aug. 3, only 54.2% of the population in France is fully vaccinated, according to Reuters. Cases have been steadily on the rise since early July.
France’s cinemas were allowed to open at maximum capacity from July 1, but since July 21 have been grappling with a strict requirement for patrons to show a EU Digital COVID Certificate — commonly called a “health pass” — with proof of vaccination or a recent negative PCR test in order to access cultural venues, including movie theaters.
The French box office had recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with theaters allowed to open at maximum capacity from July 1. But since late July, when the new health measures went into effect, admissions have dropped by 70% to 80% on movies such as “F9,” the latest instalment of Universal’s franchise with Vin Diesel.
Cannes movies such as Palme d’Or winner “Titane” by Julia Ducournau, along with Leos Carax’s “Annette” and Paul Verhoeven’s “Benedetta,” have also floundered, with their admissions plummeting by 27%, 51% and 62%, respectively, during the first five days of the new restrictions.
“Titane” has so far grossed $1.1 million in France. Meanwhile, “Benedetta” has pulled in $2.1 million and “Annette” $1.8 million.
Understandably, the situation has made distributors like Pathé nervous to open a new movie, and the “Eiffel” delay may be the first in a string of postponements. UGC Distribution is also reported to have delayed the release of the latest instalment in the “Serial (Bad) Weddings” franchise. The film’s sequel opened in January 2019 with $14.8 million, going on to gross $53.5 million.
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