Cinemas are set to begin re-opening in the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England – but film-goers will likely face a radically different experience to what they’re used to.
The Prime Minister is today publishing the Government’s review of the two-metre social-distancing rule, revising it down to ‘one metre plus’, with new proposals on relaxing restrictions due to take effect from July 4.
But even as Britons are let back in to cinemas, a string of social distancing measures will likely make going to the pictures a quieter, hungrier and more time-consuming affair.
Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, told Time Out film-goers could face a slew of changes – including no more pick and mix, one-way systems, perspex screens for staff and mandatory contactless payment.
Customers will be allowed to sit with their household or family members, but the space around the seats will be kept empty for social distancing- meaning auditoriums could have a maximum capacity of just one quarter their usual size
Film lovers will be able to enjoy Back to the Future as well as Hunger Games and Harry Potter when movie screens reopen
More than 450 films will be available to cinemas when they reopen to help them entice audiences back after lockdown.
The treasure trove of blockbusters has been put together by the Film Distributors’ Association (FDA) to help cinemas return with a bang.
The collection, compiled in Relaunching Cinema: Content For Recovery, has been split into 25 categories and features comedy, documentary, musical, horror, romance and science-fiction features.
They include all in the films in these blockbuster series: Harry Potter, Fast and Furious, Dark Knight, Matrix, Hunger Games, Twilight and Back To The Future.
There will also be recently released hits such as Military Wives, Trolls: World Tour, Misbehaviour, Calm With Horses, Sonic The Hedgehog, Onward and Emma.
And for those pining for a classic, The Wizard Of Oz, Casablanca, Lawrence Of Arabia and The Sound Of Music will be available.
New measures at cinemas are likely to include:
- Rows of seats in auditoriums left totally empty to keep social distancing
- Three empty seat spaces kept between customers – who can sit with their household or family members
- Perspex screens and face masks for cinema staff – but no mandatory mask rule for customers
- Cafés and restaurants staying shut
- Mandatory contactless payment
- Queues to get in and out of cinemas with one-way systems in place
- Antibacterial gel stations in lobbies
- No more pick and mix
Customers will be allowed to sit with their household or family members, but the space around the seats will be kept empty for social distancing- meaning auditoriums could have a maximum capacity of just one quarter their usual size.
Three empty seats and a full empty row will divide each individual or household.
Film fans may have to queue outside the cinema the same way shoppers have to queue outside supermarkets – and leaving theatres could become more of a hassle too.
Because show times will be staggered to allow for a thorough clean after the film, and to help staff and customers avoid unnecessary contact, some areas could be made one-way.
‘You’ll probably see dedicated staff to monitor social distancing, especially around pinch points in the cinema,’ Mr Clapp said.
Fire exits could also be made use of once the film finishes.
There will be no airport-style temperature checks – and face masks for customers will not be mandatory.
‘All the advice from health experts is that it isn’t hugely beneficial, and it would also be taking that equipment away from people who do need it,’ Mr Clapp said. ‘Safety is paramount but we don’t want to over-medicalise the experience – it’s supposed to be relaxing.’
But antibacterial gel stations will be set up in cinema lobbies.
Film-goers will be encouraged to buy tickets online – and contactless payment will be required at venues.
Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, told Time Out film-goers could face a slew of changes – including no more pick and mix, one-way systems, perspex screens for staff and mandatory contactless payment
Perspex screens will be set up for staff – who may also have to wear face masks.
Food and drink will still be sold, but only those items that will be taken in the auditorium – meaning cafés and restaurants will stay closed for now.
But, Mr Clapp says, ‘People digging their hands in [to pick ‘n’ mix containers] ain’t gonna happen’.
Some toilet cubicles, basins and urinals could be taken out of use to keep social distancing measures.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister outlined plans for restrictions in the hospitality sector – and across England – to be eased.
‘We no longer face the virus spreading exponentially though it remains in circulation,’ he said.
‘At every stage caution will remain our watchword, and each step will be conditional and reversible.
‘Given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus we can change the two-metre social distancing rule from July 4.’
He added that restrictions prevent ‘all but a fraction of our hospitality industry from operating’.
‘Where it is possible to keep two metres apart, people should,’ Mr Johnson said. ‘But where it is not we will advise people to keep a distance of one metre plus… taking mitigation to reduce risk of transmission.’