`Christmas Day', opening soon at a cinema near you

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The Independent Online
Christmas Day blockbuster films will be available on the big screen as well as the television if an American-owned cinema chain gets licensing permission.

To the dismay of Keep Sunday Special campaigners, Showcase Cinemas of Boston Massachusetts, has applied to a number of authorities for permission to open all its 15 multiplex sites on 25 December. In Manchester, they can already screen without seeking extra permission because there are no by-laws to prevent them.

A Showcase spokeswoman said that Christmas Day movies were big business in the United States. "Here it is popular after a big and busy Christmas dinner to get the kids out of the house and to the cinema."

The company thought the British might also like the opportunity, particularly as so many people from varied faiths do not celebrate Christmas in the traditional way. But the announcement sparked fierce criticism. Steve Jenkins of the Church of England said: "We don't like Christmas Day opening but not because we are killjoys. Everybody needs a change of pace now and then to stop and reflect. We're already losing Sundays. We need Christmas to help us meet human and spiritual needs.

"The thing the church dislikes the most about all these things - Sunday shopping, Sunday betting and racing - is that people are often asked to work on a rest day whether they like it or not. The same applies to Christmas. Someone will have to work these cinemas."

John Alexander, of the Keep Sunday Special campaign, also felt sorry for the workers. "Already thousands of people are having to work on Sundays - where will it stop if giant organisations like this start opening on one of the most special family days of the year?"

One of the councils, Middlesbrough Borough, will examine the application on Monday. A council spokesman said the application was based on the fact that many people do not celebrate Christmas. The council has had one objection so far. The cinema complex is in the Teesside Retail and Leisure Park and Cleveland police feared that if permission were granted, other clubs, bars and restaurants in the park might want to follow the lead.

No one was available to comment from Odeon or UCI cinema chains. But a spokesman for Virgin, which owns about 80 cinemas, said: "We don't think the idea of opening on Christmas Day makes sense. We don't think anyone would want to go and it would only be fair to give our staff the day off."