The government is inching towards giving the go-ahead for cinemas to reopen in July, leaving individual cinemas weighing up whether or not to welcome back audiences. While the big chains and multiplexes seem likely to reopen by the middle of the month, many of the indies and smaller cinemas will be staying closed. Joining them in keeping the shutters down is BFI Southbank, which will remain out of action through the summer – and possibly longer.
‘At the moment we have no fixed date for the reopening of BFI Southbank,’ says Judy Wells, the BFI’s director of press and PR, ‘although we are hoping that we will be able to open later this year.’
The difficulties in operating the four-screen venue in socially distanced conditions and the financial hit of operating at reduced audience capacity have led to the decision. ‘It’s a very real challenge,’ says Wells.
‘We will continue to follow government and Public Health England advice,’ she adds, ‘and the BFI has undertaken a highly detailed project that is focused on ensuring the health and safety of our staff and visitors in order to open in the most responsible way possible.’
In other words, Londoners will need to get their fix of Hitchcock, Wilder, Scorsese and Ephron elsewhere for a while yet. Possibly via the newly announced – and BFI-supported – initiative to bring 450 classic movies back to cinemas in July.
One small corner of BFI Southbank is up and running, though: Benugo at BFI Riverfront opened a window service in early June and is offering takeaways from 10am every day. You may not be able to watch a movie at BFI Southbank yet, but you can grab a beer (ideally not at 10am, but no judgment) and watch the river flow by outside, which sounds like the next best thing.
Looking to support your local cinema through this difficult period? Buy a membership to one of London’s independent cinemas.