The second-largest movie market in Asia, Japan had 3,583 cinema screens at the end of 2019, a slight increase on the year before, while the number of domestic film releases rose last year to 689, a new record. This growth has come to a shuddering halt.

As new infections of COVID-19 emerged across the country last month, theater owners tried limiting seating options and other measures to protect patrons. While not threatened with the sort of government-mandated shutdown that closed all of China’s cinemas in January — Japanese law would not allow it — they had good reason to worry that worse was to come.

On April 7, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures, backed by calls from Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike for people to stay home for all but essential activities. Movie-going was not among them.