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Back to the big screen? Cinemas plan staggered return with unsold seats to keep film fans apart

Pre-packaged popcorn if you want a snack

03 July, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

John Washington appears in the upcoming Tenet

FILM fans face a longer wait to get back in front of the big screen, even though cinemas have been given permission to open again.

Both the Curzon and the Odeon are stagger­ing the return, although Everyman will open its branch in Hampstead from Saturday. New guidelines for cinemas will see new cleaning regimes and seats left unsold to create gaps in the audience.

The traditional communal popcorn dispensers and pick and mix shelves will be off limits. Instead, all refreshments will come in pre-packed bags.

The celebrated Curzon cinema confirmed on Monday it will not be opening its London venues at the first chance.  Instead, the art house group, whose head­quarters are in Covent Garden, have committed to a gradual easing of restrictions.

A screen in Canter­bury, Kent, will open first and that will be followed in a fortnight by the Curzon Mayfair. A date for opening up the Curzon Bloomsbury in the Brunswick Centre has not been made public.

Chief executive Philip Knatchbull said:  “The partial reopening is to ensure we have all the safeguarding measures in place for the well-being of our customers and staff. We will begin a staggered reopening plan for our venues through July and August.”

He said Curzon staff had extra training and put in place “compre­hen­sive health and safety precautions”, adding: “Safety measures include clear signage, sanitation stations, allocated seating, social distancing plans, contactless payments, staggered film times and enhanced cleaning.”

The Odeon chain – which owns the largest number of cinemas in the UK – have also announced a slow return.

The Camden Odeon, on Parkway, will not screen films until July 13. Odeon say their new measures in place include limiting the number of seats available to ensure rows are empty for social distancing. They have also installed new air conditioning systems to bring fresh air from outside into auditoriums.

Spy thriller Tenet, some of which was filmed in Hampstead, will be one of the first box office tests.

But with many big summer blockbuster releases postponed until the autumn, Odeon have announced they will also be screening popular films – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Dirty Dancing and The Greatest Showman. Odeon managing director Carol Welch said: “We’ve carefully planned every step of our guest journey and put safety measures in place that will enable our highly trained colleagues to provide a controlled and safer cinema experience for all.”

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