Seized in summary proceedings by several representatives of the world of cinema and theater, the Council of State validated Wednesday, December 23 the closure of these places, decided by the government until January 7. The Council of State made its decision in view of “health context“and you”risk of increased epidemic in the short term“, while giving hope of a reopening if the health situation improves.
He further believes that “the closure to the public of these cultural places seriously undermines freedoms, in particular freedom of expression, freedom of artistic creation, freedom of access to cultural works and freedom of enterprise “. Adding that “the mere fact that part of the activities concerned could remain accessible to the public through other media or in a dematerialized manner cannot eliminate this infringement.“For Adrien de Van, director of the Paris-Villette theater, the decision of the Council of State is”disappointment“, even if it is accompanied by a”strong affirmation“.
Franceinfo Culture: How was the hearing at the Council of State?
Adrien de Van: The hearing was Monday, December 21, in the morning. Theaters and cinemas explained in detail how disproportionate and unfair the decision to close these places compared to other activities with equivalent health protocol seemed to them. Everyone recognizes the seriousness of the health situation, but we do not support this double standard. The Ministry of Health [représenté par Charles Touboul] acknowledged that there was no study indicating a particular risk of contamination in theaters or cinemas, but that he had chosen not to reopen these activities which he considered less essential and substitutable, in the as everyone could watch videos at home.
I find it distressing, but at least it has the merit of being very clear. So far there was almost no explanation for these decisions. And we could tell that they were not proportionate: why can’t we take a walk in the Louvre when we can go to a shopping arcade? We must save the Black Friday and Christmas gifts, but the theater could be substituted? It is a social project that I do not share, with a vision of what is essential and what is not reduced to an Excel table.
The Council of State has not ordered the reopening of theaters and cinemas, what do you think of this decision?
It’s a disappointment, even if no one expected the Council of State to order the reopening of the theaters given the deterioration of the health situation in recent days. The Council of State clearly expresses that the recent evolution of the pandemic, in particular with the spread of a variant of the virus in the United Kingdom, makes the current situation too unstable and uncertain to order a reopening.
Beside that, the summary judge says very clearly that the existence of a risk of contamination of spectators is not enough to justify the closure of theaters. [indépendamment du contexte sanitaire général]. He assures that the sanitary measures taken make these places safer than many other confined spaces. He also believes that the ministry seriously infringed certain freedoms. It is a strong assertion on the merits and jhe hopes the government will listen to him for the next decisions he will have to take.
There is one thing that we can notice in this decision, it is that next to the freedoms that we know (to undertake, of expression), the judge also speaks of the freedom of access to cultural works. It is, I believe, the first time that the Council of State recognizes that there is a freedom of access to cultural works for citizens in France.
What are the economic consequences of this prolonged closure for the theater world?
Economically speaking, it is not for us, the public theater, that it is the most difficult. The Paris-Villette theater is under the supervision of the city of Paris, which has been extremely attentive to the economic situation of its cultural places. But we are not alone. It is an entire ecosystem that is impacted, and as always it is the most fragile who collapse: companies, directors, artists, both morally and economically. And sustainably. The closure this fall is going to produce maybe two or three extremely complex years. For independent companies, it’s an absolute slump.