Cinemas in England have been given the greenlight to reopen in areas with fewer cases of coronavirus, as part of the government’s ‘Covid-19 Winter plan’.
Currently, all cinemas in England are closed as a result of the four-week lockdown announced by prime minister Boris Johnson at the end of October.
When these restrictions finish on December 2, cinemas will be allowed to open in regions subject to tier 1 and 2 restrictions.
However, cinemas in tier 3 areas (regions with the highest rate of infection) must remain closed, along with other indoor entertainment venues such as theatres, bowling alleys and casinos.
The tier system will be stricter than before the latest lockdown, when cinemas were allowed to open in all three tiers.
Johnson will announce which areas will fall into which tier later this week.
“It makes absolutey no sense”
The UK Cinema Association (UKCA), representing the interests of UK cinema operators, has strongly criticised the decision for cinemas in tier 3 areas to remain closed.
UKCA chief executive Phil Clapp said: “Today’s announcement makes absolutely no sense if the intention is to tackle and prevent local Covid-19 lockdowns.
“Cinemas provide vital support for good mental health at this time – much in the way that gymnasiums, which will be allowed to open it seems, do for physical health. But unlike gyms, cinemas are able to deliver an experience where people are sat socially-distanced for much of their visit in strongly air-conditioned theatres, all the while wearing face coverings.”
He added: “As we approach Christmas, a time when families typically return to the big screen, this decision – based as it seems to be on little or no evidence of risk – will make the continued survival of many cinemas all the more challenging.
“It is heartbreaking to note that within days of Warner Bros confirming the release of Wonder Woman 1984 on December 16 – only the second tentpole release since March – government seems needlessly to have put another barrier in place to the sector’s recovery.
“We would ask that this decision is reconsidered as a matter of urgency if we are not to see further damage done to the UK cinema sector.”
It remains to be seen how many exhibitors will reopen following the end of the English lockdown. Earlier in October, Cineworld “temporarily suspended operations” in all its 127 UK sites following the announcement that No Time To Die was being pushed to 2021, whilst rival multiplexes Vue and Odeon also announced partial closures.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are subject to separate restrictions.