After nearly four months, it’s almost time to hit pause on Netflix and fire up those projectors again. The government has given the official go-ahead for cinemas to roll up the shutters from July 4 and prepare – cautiously and with social-distancing measures in place – to welcome back movie lovers.
‘Most leisure facilities and tourist attractions will reopen if they can do so safely,’ the prime minister announced today, ‘including outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades.’
To ensure the moviegoing experience is safe, cinemas and the UK Cinema Association have been working with the government to prepare a range of measures: from social distancing in auditoriums that will cut audience sizes by up to 75 per cent to perspex screens, face masks for staff, antibacterial gel stations, a ban on pick ’n’ mix and the possibility of queues at entry and exit. Currently, cinemagoers won’t be obliged to wear face masks. ‘The desire is to make cinemas safe but not to make them feel like you’re walking on to Emergency Ward 10,’ says Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association.
While they can open on July 4, few London cinemas actually will. Cineworld and its Picturehouse chain plan to reopen on July 10, Vue and Odeon intend to open their doors again in early to mid-July. BFI Southbank, Hackney’s Rio cinema and other independent cinemas will remain shuttered for the rest of the summer.
‘There are concerns from smaller cinemas over social distancing, whether the film slate will be attractive to their audiences, and expecting unpaid volunteers to work,’ says Clapp.
The film release schedule in July is dominated by two behemoths: Disney’s live-action remake of ‘Mulan’ (July 24) and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ (July 31). In a unique industry-wide initiative, cinemas will also be able to pick from 450 classic films, crowd-pleasing blockbusters and Oscar-winning favourites to screen during the month.
Looking to support your local cinema through this difficult period? Buy a membership at one of London’s independent cinemas.
Ten ways cinemas will be different when they reopen in July.