Cineworld says it plans to reopen UK branches in July after coronavirus lockdown

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One of the UK’s biggest cinema chains said it plans to reopen in July as Britain’s entertainment sector gets back on track following months of lockdown.

The company said it anticipates government restrictions related to cinemas to be lifted in early summer, allowing it to reopen to the public.

“Subject to this and confirmation of the schedule for film releases, Cineworld anticipates the reopening of all of its cinemas in July,” a statement on Thursday said.

“Cineworld has put in place procedures to ensure a safe and enjoyable cinema experience for its employees and customers.”

It said reopenings will start with the Chris Nolan movie Tenet and immediately after that with Mulan, a new Disney adventure movie.

Huge numbers of cinemas across the UK and Ireland shut down in March as coronavirus started to sweep through the UK, claiming hundreds of lives.

Social distancing could be hard to introduce at cinemas

Major chains, including Odeon, Cineworld and Picturehouse, as well as BFI Southbank, the screening complex operated by the British Film Institute, announced they were closing their doors with immediate effect.

Cineworld, the UK and Ireland’s largest chain by market share with over 90 venues, said in a statement: “We are committed to providing safe and healthy environments for our employees and guests and have therefore made the difficult decision to close our cinemas in UK and Ireland until further notice.”

Odeon, which has the UK’s second largest market share, posted a statement on social media saying: “Following government guidelines Odeon cinemas are closed until further notice.”

Workers at the majority of chains have been placed on the Government’s furlough scheme.

Vue cinemas also followed suit, saying in a statement: “In line with the UK Government’s latest public health advice we will be closing all our 91 cinemas in the UK & Ireland from today, March 17, until further notice. As you would expect, we are also doing our part by putting employment policies in place so that our staff are protected and are not penalised financially.”

Phil Clapp, chief executive of UK Cinema Association, the trade organisation for cinema operators, said: “The priority now is to ensure that the thousands who work in the sector, many of them young people, are helped during what will be an exceptionally challenging period for them, and that cinema venues across the country are supported to overcome what for many will represent an unprecedented challenge to their existence.”

Thousands of independent businesses and non-essential chains will be able to reopen in England from 15 June, Boris Johnson has announced, as part of plans to further ease the lockdown.

But there are many that will still be banned from opening, such as hairdressers and beauty salons, cinemas, libraries and bingo halls.

The Prime Minister said these businesses wll only be allowed to reopen once they are “Covid-19 ready”.

He said businesses will only be able to trade again if their safety guidelines are in line with latest Health and Safety legislation.

These measures include placing posters in shop windows to demonstrate awareness of guidance, placing protective coverings on large items touched by the public and frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly.

A spokesperson for the UK Cinema Association, said: “We have made clear to the UK Government – and the devolved Governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – that, on the basis of our understanding of the safeguards that will need to be in place before cinemas can safely open, most venues will be ready to do so by the end of June.

“The suggestion that this might be considered around 4 July for cinemas in England is therefore welcome.”

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