At the iconic Soumaya Museum, security guards wearing face shields and gloves watch over mask-wearing visitors snapping selfies with artworks and wandering the near-empty hallways.

A worker sanitises an area of the Cineteca Nacional in Mexico City, on August 12, 2020.
A worker sanitises an area of the Cineteca Nacional in Mexico City, on August 12, 2020. (AFP)

Mexico has reopened museums and cinemas in the capital after months of lockdown, with face masks and social distancing having become the new normal for culture vultures in a city still battling the coronavirus.

At the iconic Soumaya Museum, security guards wearing face shields and gloves watch over mask-wearing visitors snapping selfies with artworks and wandering the near-empty hallways.

The museum, with a curving facade inspired by Auguste Rodin's sculptures, houses more than 60,000 pieces of art including works by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.

Visitors to the attraction, founded by Mexican magnate Carlos Slim, must wear a mask and have their temperature checked before entering.

Fewer than 200 people entered its doors on the first day after reopening, compared with around 2,000 before the pandemic, a museum employee said.

People wearing facemasks watch a movie at the Cineteca Nacional in Mexico City, on August 12, 2020.
People wearing facemasks watch a movie at the Cineteca Nacional in Mexico City, on August 12, 2020. (AFP)

Feel safer and happier

Those who did make the visit welcomed the chance to escape from the boredom of self-confinement.

"Now you can have the opportunity to balance your emotions a bit and feel safer and happier," said Maria Elena Diaz, a 33-year-old psychologist.

Patricia Velazquez, a 51-year-old public sector worker, said she felt "a bit trapped" under her face mask, but was happy to be immersed in art again.

For those who cannot be there in person, the museum also offers virtual tours, its director Alfonso Miranda said.

At the newly disinfected Cineteca Nacional, popular with aficionados of art house and foreign movies, most of the seats were marked as reserved to ensure social distancing.

Signs on the floor reminded users to keep a healthy distance, while the message "Welcome. Cineteca Nacional misses you" appeared on-screen.

"We were closed for five months. Now we're going to return with 30 percent occupancy. Only 120 people will be able to enter a large room for 400 people," said supervisor Ricardo Avila.

Like elsewhere in the city, temperature checks, antibacterial gel and face masks are de rigueur as authorities try to prevent the spread of a virus that has claimed nearly 55,000 lives across the country.

READ MORE: Latest Global Covid-19 updates

Cinema worker Gustavo Angel Oropeza Alvarez, 21, takes the temperature of a man arriving at the Cinepolis movie theaters in Forum Buenavista mall, in Mexico City, Wednesday, August 12, 2020.
Cinema worker Gustavo Angel Oropeza Alvarez, 21, takes the temperature of a man arriving at the Cinepolis movie theaters in Forum Buenavista mall, in Mexico City, Wednesday, August 12, 2020. (AP)

Reopening with 10 customers

At an IMAX screen in Mexico City, only about 10 customers showed up on Wednesday, but technical problems with a projector put off the scheduled screening of the 2014 space drama “Interstellar.”

“It felt great to be able to come back, “said Matias Mora. “For me, seeing a film in a movie theater is the definitive way to see it.”

Antonio Alamillo, 47, a bakery manager, and Nelida Cartujano, 42, a teacher, came to see the 1955 James Dean classic “Rebel Without a Cause.”

“I was here on the last day the theaters were open and here I am on the first day they opened again," said Alamillo. “I can't live without the cinema.”

Movie theaters in Mexico sold about 350 million tickets, making Mexico the fourth largest movie market in the world, after China, India and the United States. In terms of revenues, Mexico was in ninth place, with ticket sales worth about $850 million in 2019.

The country has relatively low ticket prices.

Lost 152 million ticket sales

But the movie theater business chamber, Canacine, estimates Mexican movie houses lost about 152 million ticket sales during the shutdown, which lasted from March 25 to August 10. At least a dozen movie theaters across the country have announced they will close permanently.

Mexico's Culture Secretary, Alejandra Frausto, was at one of the first showings at Mexico City's Cineteca Nacional complex.

“A moment like this, returning to the movies, seemed impossible,” Frausto said. “But tha t is precisely what art does, make the impossible possible.”

Mexico passed the half-million mark in coronavirus cases on Thursday. The Health Department reported 7,371 newly confirmed cases, bringing the total so far to 505,751. The department reported 627 more confirmed Covid-19 deaths, bringing the country’s accumulated total to 55,293 deaths.

Source: AFP