France, cultural world baffled by curfew imposed by Macron

The world of culture, in France, is bewildered by the curfew imposed by Macron. 'It will kill the sector,' say members of the entertainment industry.

There is dismay in France over the drastic announcement by the president of the republic, Emmanuel Macron, who last night declared a curfew for several areas of the country. From 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., starting at midnight on Friday and for six weeks, in some major cities (Paris and the entire Île-de-France, and the metropolitan areas of Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Montpellier, Rouen, Saint-Etienne, and Toulouse) it will not be possible to move from home, and only those with a certificate showing work requirements or emergencies will be allowed to circulate. The measure was taken to counter the spread of the Covid-19 contagion, but the curfew also means the cessation of several cultural activities that typically take place in the evening, starting with those in live entertainment, a sector already hard hit by the health crisis. And indeed, the world of culture is in deep turmoil, criticizing Macron’s decision.

“It’s catastrophic, a whole sector that was already struggling has been completely stopped,” Nicolas Dubourg, president of Syndeac, the National Syndicate of Arts and Cultural Enterprises, which represents some 400 institutions, most of them theaters and live performance centers, told Le Monde. “In all the affected metropolises, the public service of culture has been stopped,” he added. “I was hoping for an 11 p.m. curfew starting next Tuesday,” said Bertrand Thamin, president of SNTP, the national private theater union, on the other hand. “There has not been a single outbreak in the theaters,” he told Le Figaro, “we have gone out of our way to comply with health protocols, and we have not been rewarded. We were asked to reopen, we faced production and publicity expenses, and less than a month later, they close the theaters again.” “We are again the sacrificers of the crisis,” said Olivier Darbois, president of Prodiss, the national union of producers, distributors, festivals and performance halls, laconically. Jocelyn Bouyssy, manager of the CGR circuit (the second-largest chain of cinemas in France) declared himself “stunned. ”If the curfew had been at 10 p.m.,“ he said, ”cinemas, theaters, and theaters could have continued to receive audiences. We could have brought forward the long films to 7:30 p.m. and that would have been it. And at 9:30 p.m. everyone would have gone home, since in France audiences live at most 20 minutes’ drive from the theaters. And I am very angry that there are no outbreaks in the cinemas. Even the president has acknowledged this."

In fact, Macron himself said that “in many activities, in restaurants, in theaters, in cinemas, rules have been activated that have made us all more protected, because the numbers of people have been reduced, because there are protocols that, in cinemas, as at the theater or opera, are very effective.” Nor would it have been difficult to exempt cinemas and theaters from the curfew, many observe: it would have been enough to compare the show ticket to the circulation certificate (indeed, observe journalists Charles Arden and Damien Dutilleul of Olyrix, a magazine specializing in opera theater, “it would have been a strong signal, and perhaps many citizens distanced from culture would have been spurred to go to the theater”). Instead, no dice: the president’s goal is to “reduce the private contacts that are the most dangerous moments,” and to “be able to continue to have an economic life, to function, to work normally, to have a social life as much as possible.”

A social life, however, that will have to do without culture. On the contrary: according to Anne Roumanoff, popular actress and comedian, Macron is “murdering a whole sector.” She is echoed by Loïc Bonnet, director of the Théâtre à l’Ouest in Rouen, for whom “Macron is killing the theaters.” Still, he announced that it won’t be a problem to change performance times. In fact, there are already those who are forced to adapt to the new schedules: such is the choice of the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra. Its director, Laurent Bayle, told Le Figaro that the Philharmonic “will keep its activities the next six weeks. We will study the possibility of bringing the concerts forward to 7 p.m. instead of having them at 8:30 p.m., with the goal of having everyone leave at 8:20 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. at the latest, and to spread them over the weekends where possible. We are aware that it will not be convenient for the audience, but the assumption of having viewers arrive at 6:30 p.m. did not seem realistic to me.”

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot sent a note this morning to emphasize that “the world of culture is now again going through a terrible ordeal” and to express solidarity with professionals in theaters, cinemas, and entertainment. “I salute positively,” Bachelot said, “the commitment and responsibility of the professionals who have ensured the safety of the public in theaters and cinemas, thanks to strict health protocols, scrupulously respected by the spectators.” But culture demands to be put in a position to work, especially in view of the fact that going to the theater is currently one of the safest activities.

Image: Paris, the Opéra Garnier. Ph. Credit

France, cultural world baffled by curfew imposed by Macron
France, cultural world baffled by curfew imposed by Macron

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