Inside Odeon as it prepares to reopen cinemas with no pick and mix or cash payments

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STEPPING into an Odeon cinema and a waft of fresh popcorn hits my nose.

It might still smell the same, but how different will cinemas look when they reopen their doors after lockdown?

The Sun takes an exclusive first look inside an Odeon in Milton Keynes as it prepares to reopen with new social distancing rules, which include no pick and mix, cash payments and fewer seats.

The cinema chain’s 120 venues have been shut since March 17, along with rivals Vue, Picturehouse and Cineworld.

But Odeon has now confirmed it’ll reopen 10 of its cinemas on July 4, with a further 88 set to welcome back customers by July 16.

It comes after the government gave cinema chains the green light to reopen from early July, along with pubs, hotels and restaurants.

I love going to the cinema – so I was excited to see how its changed. 

Inside the movie theatre there are restrictions on where you can sit, with every other row and at least three seats between households left unoccupied to allow for social distancing rules. 

You’ll still be able to sit with people from your household or “bubble” – but this means fewer seats and its likely screenings will get booked up quickly. 

At the end of the film customers will be let out row by row, so there won’t be a mad dash for the door. 

It feels spacious and some film-goers will probably enjoy the extra room, but it does make me worry that you’ll need to book far in advance to avoid missing out.

Film times are also being staggered to try and minimise the amount of people in lobby areas, as well as giving staff more time to clean.

When I ask Odeon if this means there will be less films on show, they tell me that it depends on the size of the venue and how many screens it already has.

The same goes for how many people are allowed inside buildings at one time.

When it comes to booking, customers are being encouraged to pre-book their tickets via the Odeon app or website – and it costs 75p per ticket. 

You’ll then be able to collect these from the self-serve ticket machines, although every other one of these will be turned off to allow customers more space.

Film fans can still buy tickets on the day but only with card or a contactless payment, as Odeon won’t be accepting any cash.

The food and drink on offer has also been revamped, with no pick and mix, hot dogs or freshly scooped ice cream available for the moment. 

But Odeon will still be offering movie essentials such as popcorn and nachos, as well as cups of fizzy drinks and Tango Ice Blast.

There will also be the usual grab bags of sweets, tubs of ice cream and pre-sealed drinks available to buy.

If you’re like me and you usually stick to popcorn anyway, it shouldn’t matter too much, but just keep the food changes in mind if you usually gear up for a full-on meal.

You’ll still be allowed to go to the toilet during your film but staff are asking guests to be considerate by not getting too close to other customers when they get up.

Inside the loos, every other toilet has been closed so less people are inside at one time.

Like most businesses that have reopened since lockdown, customers will find a host at the entrance of cinemas to help direct you, depending on if you’ve pre-booked or still need to buy a ticket.

The host will also be in charge of keeping count of how many people are allowed inside at one time.

As expected, you’ll need to form a queue once the cinema has reached capacity.

There are now-familiar floor markers on the ground – complete with famous feet from films, such as Lion King’s Simba and Mark Watney from The Martian – which will tell you where to stand.

Odeon has marked these out at two metres, although the government has now slashed this guidance to one-metre.

These carry on inside the cinema, where the lobby area has a one-way system in place to control the flow of customers.

You’ll also find hand sanitiser stations dotted around venues, while staff will be dressed in PPE, including gloves, face masks and visors.

If you’ve missed a night out during lockdown, the measures Odeon have in place means you’ll have plenty of space from other customers.

But I’d recommend booking in advance, as fewer seats means more competition to see the best films. 

Earlier today Cineworld confirmed plans to push back reopening of cinemas to July 31.

The Sun has also checked out all the changes in Lakeside shopping centre in Essex.

And here’s what going for a game of ten-pin bowling at Hollywood Bowl will look like.

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