Thursday. 11/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Big picture houses

What have you missed most from your “normal” life in the last few months? Of course, seeing friends and dining out are high on the list but going to the cinema is something that I’ve thought about every day. My cinema habit started at an early age; I remember going to watch films with my grandparents when I was a child in Brazil. And it wasn’t just Disney cartoons either but rather serious dramas and a bit of horror too (thankfully no one was checking my ID).

So it comes as good news that cinemas are finally starting to reopen across the globe. Movie theatres in California can open from tomorrow (with appropriate safety measures); film production in Hollywood can also resume. Some countries have already opened their cinemas with good results: in South Korea, for example, Korean-made thriller Intruder brought in $2.2m (€1.92m) thanks to screenings at more than 1,000 cinemas last weekend. And while many studios have postponed their releases for next year, there are still some big hitters planned for this summer, such as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which will be released worldwide on 17 July.

Streaming services might have had their moment in the sun but studios still need cinemas to be profitable; after all, it was cinema-goers that drove last year’s global box-office revenue to an all-time high of $42.5bn (€37.4bn). And this isn’t just about the US and Hollywood; film industries in countries such as China and India are burgeoning too. So, yes, I’m counting the days until I can return to my local cinema in London. For months I’ve had my eye on a rather eerie poster outside it, featuring Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche; it’s almost time to find out just what that film is all about.

Defence / Nato

Words of warning

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg (pictured) didn’t mince his words this week when he called on the alliance to take a more global approach to defence and criticised China for “bullying” more open societies around the world. The speech will have been welcomed by the Trump administration but Michael Clarke, former director of think-tank Rusi, says that it was more about Nato laying down its own marker at a critical time for geopolitics. “[Stoltenberg] was reflecting what most European leaders are saying privately – that we do seem to be at a bit of a tipping point now in relation to China’s global role,” Clarke told Monocle 24’s weekday news show The Briefing. “China is really flexing its muscles around its own territory and I expect there will be militarised confrontations with India and with Vietnam, possibly [conflict] over Taiwan, certainly with America and maybe some European forces,” he says. All the more important, then, for Nato to keep a united front.

Diplomacy / Canada

Maple ambition

Canada is ramping up its campaign for one of two temporary seats at the UN Security Council (pictured) – Norway and the Republic of Ireland are the other candidates – ahead of a vote scheduled for next Wednesday. A recent fraying of relations with China, a permanent council member, over the extradition of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou has sharpened its focus and Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Marc-André Blanchard, returned to New York late last month (having spent much of the lockdown in Canada) to garner support. Justin Trudeau has long made re-asserting Canada’s role in international affairs a priority – from mediating in Venezuela to boosting funding for educating women and girls in developing countries. A security council seat would be a validation of those efforts and serve as a platform from which to espouse them further. Next week’s vote will signal whether the UN’s members – including those that Canada has clashed with, such as China and Saudi Arabia – will help it fulfil that ambition.

Tourism / Belgium

Free enterprise

Many tourism-reliant economies have decided that incentives might be the best way to stimulate an industry revival and salvage the summer. Cyprus, for example, will offer compensation to any traveller who catches coronavirus on their trip, while Sicily has offered to pay visitors half of their flight costs and a third of their hotel expenses, and Greece has reduced its transport tax by 13 per cent. Belgium, a country not as reliant on holidaymakers, is pursuing a different tactic by focusing on domestic tourism. Its government has revealed plans to give 10 free train tickets to every resident for use between July and December, while temporarily lifting supplementary charges for bicycles. The scheme encourages green travel and cycling while serving as an economic stimulus for domestic tourist destinations. For countries such as the UK, whose residents might not be immediately welcomed abroad, it could be an idea worth replicating.

Society / Japan

Stamped out

In Japan traditional seals known as hanko are an essential part of daily life. Every adult has one with their family name engraved in a unique writing style that serves as a signature to use when opening a bank account, renting an apartment, approving projects within companies or registering a marriage with the municipal office. But remote working during the pandemic has challenged this custom, simply because people cannot be present to stamp a document. Now Mizuho, one of Japan’s biggest banks, has decided to replace hanko with online electronic signatures for corporate-loan applications. Such steps could speed things up, though there is some concern that ending the practice entirely could turn some – especially senior citizens – into digital refugees. Time will tell how many other companies decide to put their hanko on this digitisation.

M24 / Monocle On Culture

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