Suffolk cinemas prepare to reopen after lockdown
PUBLISHED: 18:00 23 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:40 25 June 2020
As cinemas reopen after lockdown, we take a look at when venues are opening their doors and what movies will be on offer
After the longest cinematic drought in history, film fans can once again catch up with the latest adventures of their big screen heroes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that cinemas can start screening again from July 4.
The relaxing of the two metre social distancing rule, replaced with the new one metre plus, means that cinemas can safely accommodate more people making the experience more atmospheric for the filmgoer and more economic for the cinemas.
Leiston Film Theatre will be the first Suffolk cinema to reopen and will be welcoming its first customers on Sunday, July 5. Despite the government’s one metre plus ruling, Leiston’s manager Wayne Burns has asked that people maintain a safe two-metre distance while queueing and inside the iconic 105-year-old venue.
He said: “At Leiston Film Theatre, our team have decided to maintain the two-metre rule, until such a time that we are entirely confident to relax the social distancing ourselves. We want to make sure that our customers and staff can use the venue, knowing it’s as safe as can possibly be.”
Of the big venues in East Anglia only Cineworld has, so far, committed to re-opening and they will be opening their doors on July 10 in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill. Odeon and Empire have yet to confirm when they will be allowing film fans through their doors again.
Cineworld have announced extensive measures to make cinema-going safer in a post Coronavirus world. Staff have been given extra training and appropriate PPE, customers are asked to book their tickets online, use contactless payment options, stay socially distant and use the available hand sanitiser.
Film start times will be staggered to avoid overcrowding in the foyer and there will be socially distanced seating in the auditorium.
Elsewhere independent cinemas are looking to reopen as soon as it is economically viable to do so. Neil McGlone from The Riverside Cinema, Woodbridge, said they were looking to welcome customers back from July 31.
“In order to ensure the safety of both our customers and staff we have put various new measures in place: Only two screenings per day (3pm and 7.30pm) with reduced capacity (approximately five or six people per row - people from the same household can sit together, others will need to ensure they are at least three seats apart from non-household members) and cleaning will take place between screenings.
“Online bookings are preferred and contactless payments are preferred if buying tickets on the door. Hand sanitisers will be available for customers at entrance and exit to cinema.”
Social distancing measures will include two entrances to the cinema and at the end of the film customers will file out row by row thus ensuring minimum contact with doors and less contact with other people.
Ipswich Film Theatre, located in the basement of the Ipswich Corn Exchange, is not expecting to reopen during the early summer. Trustee Daniel Champion said: “As a tenant at the Ipswich Corn Exchange we are working closely with Ipswich Borough Council in developing our strategy to reopen the Ipswich Film Theatre. As with many independent venues we have a number of unique challenges which we are working to overcome and we look forward to welcoming audiences back as soon as these are addressed.”
In Bury St Edmunds, Abbeygate Cinema will be reopening their doors on Friday, July 17 with a screening of an audience favourite. The cinema have posted on Facebook the titles of Bury’s top five box office winners: Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again!, Downton Abbey, Dunkirk and Paddington 2 and audiences are being asked to vote for the movie they want to see again.
As cinemas reopen they are likely to be screening films like Military Wives, 1917 and the Pixar film Onward, movies which had just started their run when cinemas were forced to close in March. As film distributors begin to reassess audience demand then films like Disney’s live action film Mulan, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi adventure Tenet and the latest James Bond film No Time To Die are likely to be released in August.