Many of Rome's famous theaters and cinemas remain closed, despite given the go-ahead to re-open by Italian officials. Credit: Handout.

“Rome will exist as long as the Coliseum does; when the Coliseum falls, so will Rome; when Rome falls, so will the world.”
— Saint Bede

In its heyday, Rome’s storied Sistina Theater hosted such iconic acts as Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and Barbara Streisand, and Broadway shows that included “Billy Elliot” and “Mamma Mia.”

Today, it remains stoically locked and empty, as most of such entertainment places choose to remain in Covid-19 lockdown, despite being allowed to reopen by Italian officials.

In Rome, just two of the city’s 60 cinemas opened their doors on Monday, with two more planning to do so on Thursday.

While the catering industry across Italy is busy in welcoming back their guests thanks to the latest stage of easing effective this week, the situation in the country’s entertainment sector such as cinemas, dance clubs and theaters is still bleak, Xinhua reported.

“Why open now? Who would come? Would it be worth the effort?” Massimo Romeo Piparo, artistic director of Rome’s Sistina Theater, threw questions in a row.

Piparo told Xinhua that the theater is now in a “survival mode.” That means they have reduced costs to the bare minimum in order to survive until things return to normal.

“We have 19 full-time employees but when there’s a show that jumps to more than 200,” he said. “With social distancing rules we’d be able to use one seat out of three, but we can’t raise ticket prices. We’d lose money every night.”

Piparo said the Sistina Theater would probably remain closed until at least September, Xinhua reported.

Dance clubs faced similar problems, as rules against slow dancing are adverse to their operation. Cinemas have to leave two open seats between each viewer and cannot sell refreshments. For standing-room concert halls, music lovers would have to stand at least 2 meters apart.

According to Felice Laudadio, a cinema critic, commentator, and film producer, cinemas have an extra problem — no new films to show.

“The blockbusters we would expect to see in March, April, May, and June are all waiting until the situation with the outbreak becomes clearer,” Laudadio told Xinhua. “It’s a circular argument because producers don’t want to release the quality films that are ready until people go back to the cinema, but most people won’t go back to the cinema until there are quality films to watch.”

Silvia Verticelli, a restaurant cook, told Xinhua she normally goes to the cinema one or two times a month, but she would likely stay away for the foreseeable future.

“Frankly, the idea of going to the cinema in the summer, wearing a mask and sitting 2 meters from my friends… let’s just say I can find better things to do with my free time,” Verticelli said in an interview.

Italy has gradually lifted the lockdown imposed on March 10, with catering industry, cultural sites and entertainment sector being allowed to reopen, Xinhua reported. Italy also opened its borders to travelers from most of Europe.