Originally hailing from the Netherlands, Alexandra Rens moved to Ibiza six years ago, and alongside her husband Joachim, launched the successful open-air film screening company, Cinema Paradiso. It made perfect sense – the alfresco lifestyle of Ibiza and the island’s stunning backdrops lent itself perfectly to the concept of outdoor cinema. Whether with the striking walls of Dalt Vila rising up behind the screen, a clifftop, seaside setting or in the garden or on the rooftop of a luxury villa, island residents and holidaymakers could enjoy films beneath the stars, rather than having to cram into a dark, air-conditioned cinema where only the latest blockbusters were screened once a week in VO (original language).
Cinemas – like most businesses in the world – have been hit hard by the Coronavirus lockdown laws, however Alexandra believes the diversity of her business means they can adapt to the ever changing situation, as soon as the restrictions are lifted. She had only been back in Ibiza for two weeks after a winter trip to South America when the Spanish state of alarm was announced. “Just like every March, I was preparing for the season,” she explains. “I was having meetings, following up on enquiries, contacting villa rental agencies and concierge companies to send them our updated information – those kind of things.” The lockdown has given Alexandra and Joachim time to come up with creative solutions for 2020, such as public drive-in cinemas (which they had already launched to much fanfare last year) and hosting karaoke parties or open-air cinema screenings (with social distancing) in private villas. Here, Alexandra shares some of her insights into the current situation in Ibiza.
Describe your current Ibiza lockdown situation?
I am at home with my husband, living day by day. From my balcony, I can see the sea and hear the waves, especially now the streets are empty. Our next door neighbours are still on the mainland and all other restaurants and hotels surrounding our house are closed so there is no action in this usually lively street. We are lucky to have a garden, which is now very private as there are no guests in the hotel that overlooks it.
What is your daily life like now?
The first weeks were all about cleaning out closets and drawers, and after that, digitally cleaning my computer and files. My husband taught me how to play chess, something I probably would not have learned otherwise. As we have some of our cinema equipment stored at home, including a mobile karaoke kit and tons of karaoke dress-up costumes, we have been making use of this more often. Movie nights in the garden, karaoke for two or an in-house beer pong tournament keep things fun now we can’t go out.
How are you feeling on a personal level right now?
I am doing ok. Seeing this medical crisis unfold, there have been moments of disbelief and sadness. We had to say goodbye to all our plans for this summer but we are also worrying for the small businesses and other entrepreneurs here on the island that are struggling. I am very aware of the privileged situation we are in. As we speak, there are families around the world worrying where their next meal comes from. We do not have to worry about that and we are healthy.
Who or what do you miss most right now?
Being able to go outside whenever I want and wherever I want.
What’s been most the challenging thing for you throughout this experience?
Apart from having to stay at home all day, every day, I would say keeping one and a half metre distance from other people, especially when I see someone I know in the street or supermarket. This does not come naturally to me, haha!
Has there been anything about the lockdown experience you’ve enjoyed?
Having work related meetings over the phone instead of meetings in person or on location has been good. It is definitely more efficient and in my experience, I feel people get straight to the point.
How has the lockdown impacted your business and industry?
Obviously the majority of our work, such as public movie nights, has been cancelled but we are lucky we can still do private events. For example, Ibiza Karaoke is a karaoke party service delivered to your doorstep, so if the clubs do not open this season – or for those who want to avoid crowded club nights if they do – it is a great solution. It includes disco lights, a smoke machine, glow in the dark and costumes, so it matches up to a night of clubbing. We are happy that we have a diverse business, so there are plenty of creative ways we can keep doing what we do.
How do you keep in touch with the outside world?
I have been limiting my news and social media intake. All of a sudden it appeared as if people converted into epidemiologists overnight. Seeing people just blatantly forwarding articles claiming certain things without any proof backing this up only adds to the spreading of misinformation. I try to keep up by following reputable news sources that fact check their sources and rectify mistakes. I think this way you can get a pretty good idea of what is going on.
What’s been entertaining you during this period?
As always, we watch a lot of films in our house! We love a very broad range of films and it is also part of our job to be up to date, know what is out there and see if it could be something for us to program in Ibiza. Through our business accounts, we received Amazon Prime and Disney+ as well, so all of a sudden I had a lot to choose from. These platforms somewhat take away from our business, as they do not allow most of their content to be screened in public cinemas, which is a shame as some films are just better on the big screen. And now, for the first time in my life I have Netflix. Yes, I caved, and yes I also watched Tiger King which kept me entertained for at least seven hours of this quarantine!
What’s been educating you?
I watched Year Million, a six-part documentary and science fiction television series produced by National Geographic, about life and what it means to be human in the future. That is some scary s**t and keeps me up at night for a whole different reason. Artificial Intelligence and eternal life are some of the topics discussed and it really gave me a different perspective on a new reality we will all face in the future.
What’s made you laugh during this time?
The endless creativity of people when they are bored. From videos of people getting dressed up to take out the trash and clever memes to gummy bear concerts – those kind of things. The man who was breaking the lockdown laws by taking his goldfish out for a walk and got stopped by the police made me laugh.
What are your eating habits like these days?
My life has not been this routine-like for a very, very long time, so with every night spent at home, I have been cooking a lot. Mostly Asian food, and finding the ingredients here in Ibiza – especially during lockdown – is difficult. So queuing up with a one and a half metre distance at various shops while they only allow a certain amount of people inside and making food from scratch has been consuming a lot of my quarantine time.
How do you feel Ibiza has come together (while staying apart) as a community during lockdown?
There have been many great initiatives with people looking out for the elderly, crates to donate groceries at supermarkets and Ibiza Contigo, that raises funds to donate health material to hospitals and workers. It is great to see people coming together and getting things done.
Do you feel safe here? Is there anywhere else you’d rather be quarantined than Ibiza?
If you need to be secluded and live in lockdown, the most ideal place is an island so yes, I am happy to be here. There are not many cases of the virus here compared to the mainland. However, if I compare Spain’s strict Coronavirus lockdown to other countries, it would have been nice to be somewhere where daily walks outside were allowed. Being outside and in nature is so good for the body and mind. I wish they had allowed this earlier in Ibiza.
What are your hopes for Ibiza in the future?
This virus came from the mistreatment of animals and I hope we realise we can’t go on like this. And of course, we have to be more respectful of nature. Now that we have stayed away, the sea is super clear – I don’t know if I have ever seen it like this since I have been living in Ibiza. I hope people will remember this and that there will be more sustainable initiates and alternatives. Less cars and less consumption is a good start. It would be great to see if Ibiza could tackle the climate crisis with as much force as it is reacting to the current situation. And I hope the prices will go down. I mean, 20€ for a drink in a club? Who will be able to afford that now? I say it’s time for local DJs and young talent to start playing at the clubs – this way they do not need to overpay international DJs and overcharge the people.
Do you have any fears for the future of the island?
My biggest fear is that small and family businesses will disappear and big chains with deep pockets will remain. The island will lose a lot of its character and charm.
What about your own future – how is that looking right now?
Last year we organised a drive-in cinema so with social distancing become a thing, this is the safest way to enjoy a film on the big screen now. There have been lots of articles about parking spaces being converted into drive-in cinemas, and these becoming the saviour of the cinema industry. We see our colleagues around the world picking up on this. As we speak, we are working on it but getting things done now takes time. We are waiting for our permits and hope to announce the first Cinema Paradiso Ibiza drive-in event soon.
What are you most looking forward to when the lockdown restrictions are lifted?
The first thing would be to have drinks with friends at our local tapas place. Although, maybe I should not go local, and go a bit further. After being in one place for this long, I really want to go out and move around. Once we are able to travel, I would love to go to Formentera. It is already has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and most certainly we will never get another chance to experience Formentera without tourists.