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When will cinemas reopen in London?

Will Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ be the first movie we all see on the big screen?

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

You miss the cinema. We miss it, too. A lot. But finally there’s optimism – albeit, the cautious kind – that we’ll be reunited with our favourite London cinemas soon. Here’s everything you need to know about the planned reopening.

When will we be able to go to the cinema again?

According to the latest government advice, ‘leisure facilities’ – including cinemas – could reopen on Saturday July 4. Vue Cinemas has already confirmed plans to open its doors in early to mid July. There are two significant asterisks next to the date, though: firstly, it depends on whether it’s safe to move to the so-called ‘Step Three’ of the government’s phased recovery.

And secondly, cinemas will also be required to meet ‘Covid-19 secure’ guidelines before they’re allowed to open their doors again. If you’re wondering what those are, so is everyone else. The guidelines are likely to be published later this week and will involve mandatory social-distancing measures in cinemas.

‘We’re still in discussion with [the] government on the necessary safeguards,’ says Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, ‘but we are confident that cinemas will be able to deliver a range of safeguarding measures – including social distancing – to ensure the welfare of guests and staff alike.’

It’s safe to expect significantly reduced screen capacities, cash-free ticket and refreshment sales, and other innovative measures to ensure cinemas are safe for punters. Vue, which runs 13 cinemas in London, says that it is modifying its online booking system to physically isolate family groups, as well as ‘staggering film times to maintain social distancing and operate responsibly, and introducing enhanced cleaning and employee protection protocols’.

Showcase Cinemas, which operates a multiplex in Newham, has outlined safety and social distancing measures that include reduced screen
 capacities, staggered film times, contactless payment, and hand sanitiser stations. 

What films will be showing?

That’s the (multi)million dollar question. If cinemagoing returns to some form of normality in July, the marquee release is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’. The biggest film since we-can’t-even-remember, it’s currently due for release on Friday July 17. While other tentpole releases – including ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ (now August), ‘Candyman’ (September) and Wes Anderson’s ‘The French Dispatch’ (October in the US) – have been postponed, pushed back and deferred during the crisis, Nolan and his studio, Warner Bros, have stuck to their guns and the sci-fi blockbuster’s release date remains in place.

But what does a blockbuster release even look like in a time of social distancing? Will Warner Bros want to release ‘Tenet’ into half-full cinemas? And will Disney be twitchy at the prospects for its live-action remake of ‘Mulan’, due out a week later on July 24? Without these two – ‘Tenet’, in particular – there’s not much on the July release schedule to put a spring in the step of put-upon cinema owners. There are plenty of variables at play – and maybe some big decisions still to be made.

What is the situation in other countries?

Cinemas in the Czech Republic and Norway are already open again, with social-distancing measures in place, cashless ticketing, regular disinfection and antibac stations set up. In Sweden, where there has not been a lockdown, cinemas have remained open throughout.

Elsewhere, the situation is less clear-cut: Finland, Portugal, Poland and Switzerland are looking at reopening cinemas in early June; Germany, like the UK, is tiptoeing towards a July reopening; and the Republic of Ireland plans to reopen movie theatres in August. France may be targeting July, too, although Spain looks likely to wait until later in the year. 

What can you do to support your local cinema in the meantime?

Time Out’s Love Local campaign is helping support London’s independent cinemas, in conjunction with the Mayor of London’s Culture at Risk Business Support Fund. Mubi has announced a GoFundMe campaign to raise £100,000 to support UK cinemas, which you can donate to here.

You can also lend your support by checking out one of the many virtual film clubs set up to bring movie lovers together during the lockdown.

Are you keen to know when London’s bars and pubs will reopen?

And what about an opening date for London’s theatres?

Time Out Love Local campaign logo

Time Out’s Love Local campaign is supporting local food, drink and culture businesses in London. Find out how you can help save the places that make our city great.

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