Showcase Cinemas, owned by U.S. company National Amusements, has become the first major exhibition chain in Britain to enforce “social distancing” in its movie theaters, in line with the measures taken by its sister chain in the U.S. to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The move comes ahead of an expected ban by the British government next week on mass gatherings as it seeks to ease pressure on the emergency services amid the coronavirus crisis.
Showcase Cinemas has posted a message on its U.K. website stating it has “reduced audience capacity by 50% in each auditorium to allow for vacant space between each pair of seats.”
It has also “reinforced a COVID-19 (‘coronavirus’) staff education program,” provided all of its cinemas with “additional supplies of hand sanitizing stations placed at high-traffic areas,” and “initiated the cleaning of public surfaces with antiviral cleaner multiple times per day.”
It added that “if staff or a guest at the cinema is showing symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath, they will be respectfully asked to leave.”
Last week, Northern Ireland’s largest cinema chain, Omniplex, also introduced a “seat separation” policy, leaving every second seat unoccupied.
National Amusements, based in Massachusetts, operates more than 940 screens in the U.S., U.K., Argentina and Brazil under its Showcase, Multiplex, Showcase Cinema de Lux and UCI brands.