U.K. exhibitors are presenting evidence to the government that would allow them to safely reopen doors by the end of June.
Phil Clapp, chief executive of the U.K. Cinema Association, tells Variety: “We’ve made representations to government on the safeguards which U.K. cinemas would look to have in place for audiences and staff alike upon re-opening, and have asked that consideration be given – with these in mind – to allow cinemas to open by end June.”
Clapp adds, however, that the exhibition sector will be “led by the government’s understanding of the risk presented by COVID-19 and respond accordingly.”
It is ultimately the government that will decide at what point cinemas can reopen as part of the easing of lockdown measures; however, the fact that cinema operators are confident enough to be targeting June over a July restart is significant.
All U.K. cinemas were shuttered the week of March 16 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested the public “avoid” social venues — a directive that was followed a week later by official lockdown orders on March 23.
Sources tell Variety that a “constructive, active dialogue” is underway this week between industry bodies and the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, as Johnson is expected to announce plans around easing lockdown restrictions on Sunday.
Last month, Vue International, one of the continent’s largest cinema chains, told Variety it hoped to jumpstart business by mid-July. It’s understood the business now hopes to be operating in a number of markets by June, with plans in place to open some screens in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands in the coming weeks. Vue’s cinema in Taiwan has remained operational during the pandemic.
Exhibitors are keen to have systems testing and new safeguards in place in time for the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which is expected to galvanize cinema chains in July.
Warner Bros.’ release of Nolan’s highly anticipated action thriller is currently the earliest major title to be released in the coming months, with a July 17 opening, followed by Disney’s “Mulan” on July 24.
Europe has shown signs of restarting the industry in the last two weeks, with cinemas in the Czech Republic and Norway revealing plans to reopen, and production also gearing up in countries such as Iceland.
The U.K. is also looking forward and is to restart the economy in the coming weeks. The drive comes, however, as the country becomes the hardest hit by COVID-19 in Europe as of Tuesday, with a death toll of 29,427, surpassing Italy’s 29,315.