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London cinemas can return to full capacity from July 19

But some plan to keep social distancing measures in place

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

London’s cinemas and picture houses across England can revert to full capacity from July 19, according to new UK government guidelines.

In common with sporting events and concerts, cinemas have been given the go-ahead to scrap the social distancing measures that have been in place since the first reopening in August 2020.

Understandably, not all cinemas plan to immediately abandon measures that provide a source of reassurance to some moviegoers. Time Out spoke to three London cinemas, one of which – Dalston’s Rio Cinema – will be maintaining some social distancing beyond July 19.

‘We’re going to keep 50 percent capacity in our biggest screen to ease everyone back in,’ says Rio’s Oliver Meek. ‘We’re see how it goes after three or four weeks, but I think it’s prudent to ease everyone back in.’

Genesis Cinema in Mile End, meanwhile, definitely will be back to full capacity on July 19. ‘This is quite a polarising topic,’ says general manager Matthew Whiteley, ‘but the feeling I get from our customers is they are sharing the space with like-minded people who will respect each other’s decisions regarding distancing.’

South east London’s Peckhamplex is waiting for further guidance before deciding on returning to full capacity.

‘We will continue to work with the government and our members to ensure that the big screen experience remains a safe and enjoyable one,’ says UK Cinema Association chief executive Phil Clapp,  ‘something repeated public surveys have shown is recognised by the overwhelming majority of cinemagoers. As a result, we expect some safeguards – such as safety screens, provision of hand sanitisers and the implementation of enhanced cleaning regimes – to remain in place at many sites.’

The return to full capacity is good news for under-pressure cinemas as big movies start to return to the big screen. Major August releases include People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan, Snake Eyes and Candyman, while September cranks it up another notch, with No Time to Die and Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, among the biggies to land.

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