Coronavirus Outbreak: Japan film theatres screen Hollywood classics Ben Hur, Bonnie and Clyde as cinemas reopen

East of Eden (1955), Bonnie and Clyde (1969) and The Towering Inferno (1974) are among the titles playing, after Japan chain Toho Cinemas reopened 10 of its 66 theatres in areas deemed relatively safe from the coronavirus.

Reuters May 19, 2020 12:53:41 IST
Coronavirus Outbreak: Japan film theatres screen Hollywood classics Ben Hur, Bonnie and Clyde as cinemas reopen

Tokyo: The chariots of 1959 epic Ben Hur and the yellow brick road of 1939 fantasy The Wizard of Oz are back on the big screen in Japan as cinemas begin reopening from the coronavirus crisis with a slate heavy on Hollywood classics.

Coronavirus Outbreak Japan film theatres screen Hollywood classics Ben Hur Bonnie and Clyde as cinemas reopen

A still from Ben Hur.

James Dean starrer East of Eden (1955), crime drama Bonnie and Clyde (1969) and disaster film The Towering Inferno (1974) are among other titles playing, after Japanese chain Toho Cinemas reopened 10 of its 66 theatres in areas deemed relatively safe from the coronavirus.

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The unit of Toho Co, which also runs a film studio, said it would reopen 23 more cinemas on Friday in prefectures where the government has lifted the state of emergency.

Cinemas in Tokyo remain shut.

Toho Cinemas, which had closed all of its theatres as of 18 April, has implemented safety measures including keeping every other seat empty and making staff and customers wear masks.

Reopening theatres leads to another challenge, however: what films to show after movie studios delayed new releases because of the pandemic?

Toho’s reopened theatres mostly offer a mix of old Hollywood, recent Japanese hits and holdovers like Oscar-winning Parasite that was in cinemas before the closures, although that mix varied between theatres, its website showed.

Its Sendai cinema in northern Japan on Tuesday was screening the American classics mentioned as well as neo-noir sci-fi classic Blade Runner (1982), prison drama The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and several Japanese films including Shin Godzilla (2016).

Its Sun Street Hamakita theatre in central Japan’s Shizuoka skewed more towards local films headlined by multiple screenings of Makoto Shinkai’s animation megahit Your Name (2016) and his follow-up Weathering With You (2019).

But Sun Street Hamakita was also showing Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), romantic drama An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and musical West Side Story (1961).

Western Rio Bravo (1959), starring John Wayne, was also playing in some theatres.

Asked about the selection of films on show, a Toho official simply said: “We’re playing films that are popular.”

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