Independent UK cinemas may not open until September

A recent survey of independent cinemas across the UK has revealed that many are planning to stay closed until autumn.

Cinemas, like other entertainment venues, have been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Recent government guidelines says cinemas can plan to reopen from 4 July, and many of the larger chains – including Cineworld, Odeon, Vue and Showcase – have announced plans to reopen next month.

However a new survey by The Independent Cinema Office (ICO) shows that the majority of independent cinemas foresee staying closed until at least September, with the safety of staff and customers their primary concern.

The report explains: “[Independent cinema owners] feel pressure from the commercial sector and the industry as a whole to open when it is not actually financially viable, practical or even safe to do so.”

Read more: Analysts predict dire box office for 2020

The survey polled 497 organisations across the UK’s independent cinema industry. 41% said they will not be able to open with social distancing measures in place due to concerns over health and safety.

The 59% that said they would be able to open said they were considering implementing new signage, floor markings and one-way systems, regular deep cleaning, no cash sales, no physical tickets, no fresh popcorn, and facemasks for customers to ensure safety.

However, with enforced social distancing in place they estimated a 20% increase in running costs, a 50% loss in seating capacity, and most felt they could only survive financially for three months with these measures in place.

The older demographic for independent cinemas was also flagged as a chief concern, with people over 70 considered more at risk from COVID-19.

Some independent cinemas are planning to reopen in July though, hoping for the release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet to draw people back to the movie theatres.

“If it does [go ahead] that would be the time to open,” Rob Younger, who owns Station Cinema, in Richmond, North Yorkshire, and has a 50% stake in the Parkway, in Barnsley told the BBC.

The ICO says it will use the findings of the survey to lobby for financial support for the sector.

Tenet is scheduled for release on 17 July.

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