What better to do on a grey and drizzly Saturday than visit the cinema – something I’ve missed in our three months of lockdown.
As restrictions eased across England yesterday, a handful of venues reopened their doors so I went along to find out what you can expect if you choose to visit the silver screen in our new Covid-19 world.
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Of the major chains, Showcase opened nine venues, Odeon ten with Vue and Cineworld postponing their reopening until later this month.
I’m lucky enough to live near Showcase Cinema de Lux at Bluewater shopping centre, in Kent.
I’ve missed the chance of watching a film in peace – so a day before the big reopening, I booked tickets online.
There was limited choice – and nothing new.
For now, it’s mainly nostalgic offerings such as Inception and a 4k restoration of The Empire Strikes Back.
Around 450 films have been available to England’s cinema operators including The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter and war drama 1917.
I scroll through my options which include Back to the Future and Beauty and the Beat and choose Bohemian Rhapsody, a 2018 biological drama about Freddie Mercury which I hadn’t yet got round to seeing.
I book and pay for my tickets online – tickets only cost a fiver – and I am encouraged to pre-order and pay for a drink which will be ready when I arrive.
When I arrive, there are one way systems in place to follow and there are still manned tills for those who just turn up, though screens have been erected to protect customer’s and staff.
Hand-washing stations and antibacterial wipes are everywhere.
At no point, am I asked to wear a mask. Public Health England have not made in mandatory given cinemas don’t sit face to face.
Signs ‘encourage’ you to wear one, but it’s not enforced. Neither is my temperature checked.
I stand in line to collect my drink and then look around to see what food options are in place.
You can still buy ice cream, hotdogs, nachos and popcorn – but sadly, there’s no pick ‘n’ mix, it’s self-service nature would clearly put us at risk of cross-contamination. Everything is sold from behind a screen.
I’m directed to scan the ticket from my phone myself and am directed up an escalator to screen 11.
It’s the first time cinemas have been opened in months, and it’s only 10.45am, but it’s already bustling with people.
Groups of teens and families going to see Paw Patrol.
Toilets are open but at reduced capacity. Every other sink and cubicle are sealed off to make sure customers keep their distance.
At busy times, you’d probably need to queue.
I head into my film and sit in my pre-booked seat. You don’t have to sit by yourself if you’re attending with members of your household, but must be at least two-metres apart from everyone else.
I’ve chosen a quiet showing – there are only three others in the auditorium.
It’s actually quite nice having fewer people at the screening. There’s no munch crunch of others eating popcorn behind you and for the first time in months, I sit down and enjoy a film in peace.
Did I put myself at risk by going? It’s hard to say and the public seem unsure about how safe it is to go right now, though some are clearly willing to take the risk.
I felt the industry was doing everything it can to protect those who choose to go, but could these sort of relaxed restrictions lead to us to a second spike?
Only time will tell.
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