Flu outbreak closes theaters in Mexico

A wears a mask in Mexico City April 24, 2009. REUTERS/Eliana Aponte

MEXICO CITY (Hollywood Reporter) - The swine flu outbreak in Mexico has forced the nation’s top movie-theater chains to shut down dozens of cinemas throughout the nation’s capital.

Market le3ader Cinepolis said Sunday its theaters in Mexico City, the surrounding state of Mexico and the northern state of San Luis Potosi will be closed “until further notice.” Cinepolis rival Cinemex also has closed numerous theaters in the region until at least Tuesday.

Cinepolis and Cinemex operate 13 of the nation’s 25 most profitable theater complexes.

Health officials say the epidemic has claimed about 80 lives in Mexico, and they believe that more than 1,000 people may be infected with the virus. On Friday, the government shuttered schools, state-run theaters and museums, and apparently they will remain closed this week.

Mexico’s finance minister said he expected the outbreak to hurt the economy. Numerous concerts, cultural events and stadium events have already been canceled. Two professional soccer matches were played over the weekend in stadiums without spectators.

As people here heed government warnings to avoid visiting places with crowds, the Mexican box office is taking a strong hit, and there’s no telling how long it will take to contain the virus.

According to the National Film Chamber, Mexico ranked 13th worldwide in box office receipts last year. Videocine’s “Igor” and Paramount’s “I Love You, Man” opened this weekend; Fox’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is slated to hit theaters Friday.

(Editing by Dean Goodman at Reuters)