• Jiji


Small cinemas in Kansai that are struggling to attract moviegoers due to the coronavirus pandemic have started selling original T-shirts in hopes of boosting their bottom line.

The project was launched jointly by 13 small cinemas in and around Osaka and the nearby cities of Kyoto and Kobe on Monday.

In a single day, the theaters received orders for some 2,700 T-shirts — which have the phrase, “Save our local cinemas” printed on the front — about nine times their daily target. Orders will be accepted until Sunday.

Noriko Yamasaki, 43, manager of Cine Nouveau, a small theater in Osaka that took a pivotal role in the project, said that the number of visitors to the cinema has kept falling despite its efforts to continue showing movies while taking infection control measures, such as frequently ventilating the theater and asking customers to sit at a distance from one another in the theater.

But the manager also said it is hard for the theater to take active steps to draw visitors at a time when people are being asked to stay home.

“Burdened with rent on real estate and film rental charges, small cinemas will likely continue to experience financial difficulty even if we use the government’s subsidy system,” Yamasaki said.

The 13 theaters that launched the T-shirt project were already closely connected through the joint purchases of equipment. Regular customers, fans of small cinemas in Tokyo and Kyushu, and movie directors were among those who showed their support by ordering T-shirts.

Yamasaki decided to halt Cine Nouveau’s operations from Thursday, following the government’s declaration of a state of emergency over the virus outbreak on Tuesday.

“Small cinemas contribute to the enrichment of local cultures,” Yamasaki said.

“One of the appeals of small cinemas is that they provide opportunities to meet people through movies,” the manager said, expressing hope that people will realize the value of such places.