LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s theatres, cinemas and other cultural venues got the go-ahead to reopen on Monday as the country entered the third phase of its exit from lockdown – but many stayed shut, fearing audiences would not show up.
The coronavirus pandemic was a bitter blow to the already fragile arts sector and performers are desperate to be reunited with their audiences, but reopening too soon could be counter-productive.
“Opening doors to only have half a dozen people would do a disservice to the audience and the actors, so we opted to reopen in September if everything goes well,” Diogo Infante, artistic director at Trindade, one of Lisbon’s oldest theatres, said.
The cultural sector has long struggled to win government support. Many artists say the 30 million euros ($33.36 million) announced for the sector last month was insufficient.
“The fragility of the cultural sector has been chronic for many years,” said Infante, himself an actor. “There has never been the political courage to look at culture as important for society.”
Sector associations said the government should provide financial help to artists, as well as to venues, so they can buy equipment needed to reopen.
Claudia Belchior, chairwoman at the D. Maria II, another prestigious Lisbon theatre, said the cast needed until September to prepare a new play as lockdown prevented rehearsals.
“People are still very afraid to leave home. We have to fight that. We have all safety measures in place,” Belchior said.
Some cinemas said they still needed time for safety measures and were unsure what to show as production constraints have delayed some premieres.
NOS, owner of Portugal’s largest cinema chain, has yet to confirm when it will reopen, saying it will do so as soon as it safely can.
Others are eager.
“It’s better to reopen with a few customers than not at all,” Pedro Borges, head of Cinema Ideal in Lisbon, said.
Reporting by Catarina Demony, Victoria Waldersee and Miguel Pereira; editing by Barbara Lewis