UK cinemas shut their doors mid-March, but cinemagoers can start looking forward to munching popcorn once more. Cinemas have slowly begun to reopen, with big chains and independent cinemas set to welcome more customers in the coming months across the country.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic still around, how can you make your next trip to the cinema safely?
What Are the Current Government Guidelines?
Cinemas in England were allowed to reopen on 4 July. Cinemas in the rest of the UK followed suit slightly later. Most big chains, from Vue to Cineworld, have opened a few cinemas at a time and many independent operators are yet to open.
When cinemas open their doors to customers, they must follow the official guidelines set by the Government and the UK Cinema Association, which require cinemas to:
- Provide socially distanced seating, with people from different households asked to sit apart.
- Limit the number of people attending a specific show to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
- Implement staggered start and finish times for movies to avoid congestion in foyers.
- Provide hand sanitisers to customers and employees.
- Remove pick ‘n’ mix stands and other unpackaged food options.
- Require customers and staff to wear face masks.
The guidelines also outline extra cleaning measures and protective gear for staff. The steps will help ensure both customers and employees stay safe.
How Are Cinemas Ensuring You Stay Safe?
On top of the official requirements, many cinemas are taking extra steps to ensure you stay safe. Most cinemas are encouraging customers to book online, and chains are even offering the option to pre-order your popcorn. Online booking limits interactions and makes tracing easier.
As mentioned above, face masks are currently mandatory to wear at the cinema. The rule change happened recently, and cinemas may refuse access if you don't wear a mask. You can remove your mask to eat and drink, but the advice states that you should wear it at all other times.
Steps You Should Take to Stay Safe at the Cinema
Cinemas across the country are doing their bit to ensure they follow the official guidelines. You can make the trip safer by considering the following tips:
1. Do Not Attend the Cinema if You’re Sick or Showing Symptoms
You should not visit the cinema if you or anyone in your household is showing COVID-19 symptoms. Stay home and use a streaming service instead!
A full list of symptoms and advice on what to do if you suspect you have COVID-19 is available on the NHS website.
2. Book Your Tickets and Snacks Online
Cinemas are currently running a limited schedule with unique starting times. You should check the available movies online and book your tickets online as well. Most big chains have online booking systems, and independent cinemas often offer the option to book via telephone. Opt for e-tickets, so you don’t have to handle physical tickets at the cinema.
You can even pre-book your snacks with some cinema chains. So book your drink and popcorn together with the ticket. Don't forget that you can always take snacks with you. One of the biggest and most persistent myths is that cinemas don't let you do this. However, you are free to take your snacks with you, and it'll save you quite a bit of money!
Be aware that contactless payments are mostly available for in-venue payments and many cinema chains, such as Odeon, aren’t currently accepting cash.
3. Take Safety Essentials with You
You should have a face mask with you, as it is now mandatory to wear one at the cinema. Wearing a mask may reduce virus transmission, and wearing it is a small price to pay for the opportunity to return to a (somewhat) normal routine. The law gives the police the power to enforce a fine of up to £100 if you don’t have a legitimate reason not to wear a mask.
While cinemas have increased the availability of hand sanitisers, you should consider taking a travel-sized bottle with you. You never know when you might want to use it!
4. Plan Your Trip
The key to a safe and smooth cinema trip is planning. You should check the route and avoid public transport whenever possible. Skip the rush hour and travel earlier to the venue if you must. You can always hang outside the cinema and find a local park, for example. Don’t just think about when you should get to the cinema but also what time the movie ends. You want to plan your way home and make sure it doesn’t happen in the middle of a rush hour.
Can You Take Children to the Cinema?
If you are thinking about treating the grandchildren to a cinema trip, you can do it safely. The above tips help ensure the trip goes smoothly.
Here are some additional things you should keep in mind. You should:
- Talk to your grandchildren about what to expect. Kids have to behave a little differently, too. You want them to be aware of social distancing and the need to avoid touching things.
- Explain the reasons for wearing face masks. Keep in mind that children younger than 11 do not need to wear a mask. With older children, you can practise wearing a mask before the trip to make it feel less awkward and scary.
- Take snacks with you. A trip to the supermarket will be a fun activity to do, and the kids will have more choice this way!
- Plan activities for the moments you might have to wait or queue. You can take a tablet with you to allow the kids to watch videos or play games, for instance. You can ensure they stay put and don’t start running around.
It is essential to talk to kids about what is going on without stoking fear. You don't want to make them fearful of the outside world, but it’s also important they understand the need to keep safe. Explain to them what to expect and how the trip to the cinema might be different. For example, it’s worth going over how there is limited availability of snacks. You don’t want to start arguing over the issue right before the film!
It is in the interest of everyone to make sure people can enjoy movies once again and stay safe. If you follow the Government’s advice, follow social distancing rules and stick to the cinema guidelines, there is no reason you can’t take a safe trip to the cinema.