How are European cinemas affected by COVID restrictions?

22 November, 2021

After almost two years of living in the pandemic, cinemas around the world have resumed their activity, but throughout Europe, restrictions vary from country to country and, consequently, the box office revenues.

In the UK, moviegoers benefit from one of the most permissive sets of rules relating to access to movie theaters. Wearing a mask is encouraged but not mandatory, and in England, Scotland and Ireland, access doesn’t require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test. In Wales, on the other hand, making proof of one of them became mandatory starting with November, following a spike in cases. The highest-grossing month at the box office in 2021 so far is October, which saw the theatrical release of films such as No Time to Die and Dune.

In Spain, Italy and France, cinemas are open at full capacity. In France and Italy, the green pass (presenting a recent negative test or proof of vaccination) is mandatory, while in Spain, wearing a mask is the only safety rule in place.

In Spain and France, July remains the most prolific month, with Black Widow grossing $5,659,315 (Spain) and F9: The Fast Saga $19,524,769 (France).

In Italy, on the other hand, audiences’ return to cinemas, now running at full capacity, led to Eternals becoming the top-grossing film not just of November but of 2021 so far.

In Poland, cinemas continue to operate at 75% capacity and wearing a mask is required.

In Germany, the rules differ the most in the country’s 16 federated states. Some of them require proof of vaccination, a negative test, or a certificate of recovery from COVID-19. Others, however, allow access only to those vaccinated. Mask-wearing is mandatory in Bavaria, Hamburg and Baden-Württemberg, and the maximum capacity varies between 50% and 100%.

Bulgaria introduced the green pass on October 25, which is also mandatory in the Czech Republic, as is wearing a mask. In Austria, access in cinemas is possible by showing proof of vaccination or of recovery from the virus.

No Time to Die leads the box office in Poland and Germany, closely followed by Dune and Eternals. In Bulgaria, F9: The Fast Saga recorded the largest revenues.

No Time to Die also dominates box office charts in the Netherlands, surpassed only by Jungle Cruise, in July. However, due to an increase in infection rates, the Dutch authorities are considering closing cinemas.

Romania is one of the countries with the tightest restrictions imposed by the authorities. Cinemas, as well as theaters, restaurants and malls close their doors at 9pm. Cinemas are open at 30% capacity and they require both proof of vaccination and wearing a mask.

In regards to the vaccination rate, Romania is second-to-last in Europe, with 1,739,283 infections from the beginning of the pandemic until today.

Even so, the most anticipated films of the year have enjoyed quite a success (under the given conditions), with productions such as Dune or Eternals grossing $491,750 and $415,142, respectively. However, they can’t beat the films that had their premiere in June, at a time when there were fewer restrictions, such as F9: The Fast Saga ($929,182).

Still, the recent decrease in the number of cases may bring some hope that soon enough we will see a return to lighter measures.



Photographer and editor, she co-founded Dissolved Magazine. For Films in Frame she brings the news from the film world, in the Monday News column. She likes stories, Monty Python and going to the seaside.