Germany's Largest Movie Theater Organization Says Less Social Distancing is Needed to "Survive This Crisis"

Germany’s largest movie theater organization is calling for less social distancing if cinemas want to “survive” the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. HDF Kino, which has 620 members who account for more than 3,200 theater screens across Germany, is demanding for a reduction in social distancing measures in light of a new study that claims theaters are safer than offices when it comes to transmission of airborne diseases.

Only if German cinemas can increase their capacity will there be more new films. And only then will the cinemas be able to survive this crisis at all,” HDF CEO Christine Berg said.

HDF Kino is calling for a reduction of the 1.5 meters (roughly 5 feet) social distancing rules that are currently in place in Germany’s cinemas, in light of a new study by the Hermann Rietschel Institute at the Technical University of Berlin, which claims that theaters are safer than offices when it comes to transmission of airborne diseases like COVID-19, Deadline reports. The study compared aerosol concentrations in two movie theaters of different sizes with an office space, and found that the different ventilation systems for theaters make them relatively safer.

“During a cinema visit people are only exposed to a fraction of the possible aerosol quantities that can be compared to those in an office workplace, HDF Kino said in a statement, continuing:

“Since there is generally no speaking during a visit to the cinema while conversations take place in everyday office life, the amount of aerosol inhaled in the cinema is just 0.3% compared to that in the office….The type of ventilation prevailing in cinemas is so-called source ventilation, in which the air usually flows in under the seating area, the used air heats up on the people and then rises. The air in the breathing area of ??these people is therefore significantly less aerosol-containing than with the same air change in a room with mixed ventilation, as is usual in office rooms.”

HDF CEO Christine Berg, CEO HDF added, “The study by the HRI shows how extremely low the aerosol pollution is and thus how low the risk to individual cinema-goers is in the current situation. We therefore call for the 1.5M distance regulation on which this study is based to be reduced nationwide, since it is obvious that the safety of our guests is guaranteed even with a shorter distance. Cinemas can only use a maximum of 20% of their capacities with the spacing regulations that still apply in almost all federal states, which in turn has a negative impact on the release dates of new films.”

Berg stressed how the social distancing rules are killing theaters, and that the business cannot be sustained under current measures. “Only if German cinemas can increase their capacity will there be more new films. And only then will the cinemas be able to survive this crisis at all,” Berg said.

However, this is just one study, apparently conducted at only three locations. While Germany’s largest theater organization is calling for reduced social distancing, it’s unclear whether it will make any impact on the country’s cinemas, of which less than 50% are currently open, all adhering to the state-mandated 1.5 meters distances, mask wearing, and contactless ticketing. It’s unclear too whether the results of this study will make its way across the Atlantic and encourage major U.S. theater chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark to reopen after several delays.

The World Health Organization has said that COVID-19 is commonly transmitted through close contact but that aerosol transmission in indoor spaces “cannot be ruled out.”

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