When might cinemas start to reopen?

Venues that ‘are, by design, crowded’ might only be able to ‘open safely only in part’, government states

Sabrina Barr
Wednesday 13 May 2020 08:46
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On Sunday 10 May, Boris Johnson outlined plans for lockdown measures in England to be eased.

In a document shared on the government’s website on Monday 11 May, it stated that a “range of adjustments to current social distancing controls” are to be implemented over the next few months.

It stated that these proposed adjustments will be timed “carefully according to both the current spread of the virus and the government’s ability to ensure safety”, and will be introduced in “steps”.

The guidance details when certain businesses may start to reopen in the near future, depending on the infection rate across the country.

Among the businesses mentioned are cinemas, several chains of which have been closed since before lockdown was established on Monday 23 March.

On 17 March, Cineworld Group CEO Mooky Greidinger announced that all Cineworld and Picturehouse cinemas across the UK and Ireland had been closed “until further notice” in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile on Odeon’s website, the company revealed that all of its cinemas had been closed until further notice “following government guidelines”.

So when might cinemas be expected to reopen to full or partial capacity as lockdown measures begin to ease?

When might cinemas reopen?

In the government’s 50-page document titled “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy”, it explains that certain areas or activities are likely to reopen or resume sooner, because the nature of the business or behaviour lends itself to a decreased risk of infection.

“While reopening outdoor spaces and activities (subject to continued social distancing) comes earlier in the roadmap because the risk of transmission outdoors is significantly lower, it is likely that reopening indoor public spaces and leisure facilities (such as gyms and cinemas), premises whose core purpose is social interaction (such as nightclubs), venues that attract large crowds (like sports stadia), and personal care establishments who close contact is inherent (like beauty salons) may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections,” it states.

The reopening of leisure facilities such as cinemas falls under stage three of the government’s “roadmap”, and will occur “no earlier than 4 July”.

However, the government will need to assess “further detailed scientific advice” closer to the time in order to determine “how far we can go”.

The guidance adds that the easing of lockdown measures may be established “at a different pace” in other parts of the UK, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is due to the fact that the “level of infection – and therefore risk – will differ,” the government says.

Could cinemas be opened in stages?

The government’s document stresses that venues where social distancing is difficult for members of the public may not be able to reopen safely from 4 July “or may be able to open safely only in part”.

“In order to facilitate the fastest possible re-opening of these types of higher-risk businesses and public places, the government will carefully phase and pilot re-openings to test their ability to adopt the new Covid-secure guidelines,” it says.

“The government will also monitor carefully the effects of reopening other similar establishments elsewhere in the world, as this happens.”

Vue Cinemas recently unveiled a number of measures that the chain will enforce from July when cinemas are billed to potentially reopen.

“We have been liaising closely with authorities across Europe to design operating procedures that can provide the degree of social distancing required and allow an experience for our customers and staff that is as safe as possible,” Vue said in a statement.

Among the measures suggested by the chain are physically isolating family groups via Vue’s online booking system, staggering film times to make social distancing easier, and additional cleaning and employee protection protocols.

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