Are cinemas’ new safety measures an award-winning performance?

Written by Film

The impact of COVID-19 has been detrimental to all businesses, but especially those within the arts sector, such as theatres and cinemas, who received little funding whilst they have been closed. Cineworld officially re-opened on the 31st July, and the Vue will follow shortly on August 7th. However, the cinema experience now is a lot different from what it was before.

I am extremely lucky to live near a Showcase cinema, and it’s been open since early July. As someone who went to the cinema pretty much weekly at many points throughout the year, after not going to one in months, it was fair to say that I was excited to return. However, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there’s this whole Coronavirus thing and it’s not recommended to be in large gatherings, especially indoors. So, the excitement was soon eaten by panic.

After looking at their website, I saw that they’re massively reducing the audience capacities so people can safely social distance, and are deep-cleaning seats between the scattered cinema screening times throughout the day. From the looks of it, other cinemas such as Cineworld will be taking similar measures. For instance, Cineworld makes you leave at least a 2-seat gap between people when booking seats, similarly to how Showcase only have a select few seats to choose from.

Obviously, you also have to wear a mask whilst inside

However, Showcase is pretty cool because they’ve installed air purifying systems that kill airborne viruses. I thought this was made up, but my mum, who works in a hospital (big up the NHS), said that they have the same ones in operating rooms so they don’t have to wait an extended period of time for particles to disappear before the next procedure. Nice one!

Oh, and my mum also pointed them out in the cinema when we were there and confirmed that they were the same ones, so it’s reassuring to know that it’s not just some weird PR stunt.

Image: IMDb

So, what’s the actual cinema experience like? I’ve been three times now, and it’s been strange, but great to be back. And if anyone’s interested, I saw The Princess Bride (1987), The Goonies (1985) and Back to the Future (1985). Immediately when you walk in there’s a hand sanitiser station and guidelines on the floor for where to walk around the foyer. Obviously, you also have to wear a mask whilst inside.

If you haven’t pre-booked a ticket, you will be greeted by lovely people at the tills behind giant screens, wearing face coverings. The food queues are distanced, and there’s even tape so you don’t go too close to the snacks. As for the toilets, they’ve actually taped off half of the sinks so you can’t be next to someone whilst washing your hands.

Once you’re ready to get into the actual screening, they’ve placed more hand sanitiser stations just outside each screening, so you can sanitise before you enter the building, as well as before you enter the screening. When you walk in, you can immediately smell the scent of deep cleaner. Every time I’ve been in the seats have been socially distanced well, with people pretty much on opposite ends of the screening.

It’s weird because I didn’t think they’d play adverts since everything is delayed, but boy was I wrong. Each time it’s been the same adverts in the same order, and it’s driving me insane at this point. Mulan, Peter Rabbit 2, Soul, Rumble, repeat. And no, they don’t have the updated release dates either, so it’s quite funny when it says ‘Preview: March 17th’.

We exited through a back door to avoid crowding

I thought it would be quite odd at first wearing a mask for an entire film, but honestly, it really doesn’t bother me. Once the film is over there’s guidance on how to leave, and we exited through a back door to avoid crowding near the entrance or in the foyer. Honestly, the experience is still enjoyable, despite it being different. Sure, they aren’t playing new films, but for me, it’s not even about what film I’m watching, it’s just the experience of being back in a cinema.

I had forgotten what it’s like to have no distractions whilst watching a film, or even how annoying it is when someone briefly talks during a film. Except now, you get the added bonus of terror whenever anyone coughs- just try and tell yourself that they have a dry mouth because of their popcorn. Ah, it’s good to be back.

Last modified: 5th August 2020

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