English cinemas will be permitted to resume 100% capacity screenings from July 19, following the UK government’s commitment to the final stage in its roadmap out of lockdown.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said he expected the final stage to go ahead as planned, with social distancing rules to be scrapped from that date, including for indoor entertainment venues.
The new rules are subject to a final review on July 12.
Mask-wearing will no longer be compulsory, meaning those attending cinemas will not have to wear one in any part of the building including foyers and screens.
Films scheduled for release on the first weekend after that date (Friday July 23-Sunday 25) include M Night Shyamalan’s Old through Universal, Mona Fastvold’s The World To Come through Sony and Philippe Lacôte’s Night Of The Kings through Altitude.
Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, welcomed the rule change. ”The current social distancing requirements and capacity caps in place at cinemas in England have undoubtedly presented significant financial and operational challenges to many of our members, so we are pleased they will now be given the opportunity to respond more flexibly to audience demand,” said Clapp. ”We hope to see similar announcements in the other UK nations shortly.”
While compulsory Covid-19 safeguards will end, Clapp said the UKCA expects some safeguards - such as safety screens, provision of hand sanitisers and the implementation of enhanced cleaning regimes - to remain in place at many sites.
Scotland will also move to ‘level zero’ of its lockdown exit plan on July 19, which will allow indoor entertainment events including cinema screenings to increase maximum capacity from 200 to 400. Several major legal restrictions regarding Covid-19 will stay in place until at least August 9, including the mandatory wearing of facemasks in public places.
Wales will hold its next review of lockdown measures on July 15; while in Northern Ireland, screening capacity is determined by individual risk assessments, which are now only required for venues of 30 people or more indoors as of July 5.
Cinemas in England have been subject to a 50% capacity cap since reopening on May 17. Box office performance has been strong in this context, with Universal’s Fast And Furious 9 setting a £4.8m record opening weekend for a film since the pandemic began last month, and Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2 grossing £16.4m as of June 27.
The UK reported 27,334 further Covid-19 cases on Monday July 5, with another nine deaths within 28 days of a positive test.