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Cinema at Palace Central Cinemas
Photograph: Anna Kucera

Palace Cinemas sets July date to reopen but at drastically reduced capacity

It is aiming to be the first cinema chain to reopen in NSW

Maxim Boon

Arthouse movie champions Palace Cinemas will be the first cinema chain in NSW to reopen to the public on July 2, two weeks earlier than the state's other major cinema franchises, which plan to start screenings again on July 16. However, it will do so with at least 65 per cent of its seats empty to ensure customers can practice social distancing.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Palace’s chief executive, Benjamin Zeccola, said that rather than six daily sessions, cinemas would reopen with just three daily sessions to allow time for deep cleaning between screenings. Groups of up to ten people will be allowed to sit together but must be distanced from other patrons. This will likely mean that auditoriums will open with just 20 to 35 per cent of their maximum occupancy filled.

There is currently a logjam in the usual flow of Hollywood releases, as blockbusters that were supposed to premiere during the past ten weeks have been delayed while the global cinema market has been in hiatus. Despite this, Palace has managed to secure several new releases to reopen with: Steve Carell political farce Irresistible; Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island; and musical comedy The Night Note. Palace will also resume the French Film Festival program that it was forced to halt in mid-March when government restrictions shut down public venues.

In addition to physical distancing measures and enhanced cleaning procedures, Palace will also make online booking compulsory, stagger its screenings to avoid unnecessary crowds in foyers, and provide hand sanitiser stations at cinema entrances. Other major cinema chains are aiming to reopen on July 16, to coincide with the international release of Christopher Nolan’s time travel spy thriller, Tenant. If it's actually available that is – the film's producers have said that they will only debut the movie as planned if at least 80 per cent of the world's cinema's are operational again. Cinemas in Victoria have been given the go-ahead to reopen on June 22, but as yet, there has been no formal approval from state authorities for cinemas in NSW to reopen.

We take a look at the limiting factors cinemas will need to address before they can reopen in July.

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