Cinema is back! Or at least it will be for much of the UK from Monday 17 May. But as we all prepare to hit our local screens, fill our arms with popcorn and bask in the sheer joy of experiencing movies on the big screen once more, there are a few questions that you might want answers to. So, in preparation for The Big Reopening, we spoke to exhibitors to find out exactly how things have changed and what steps they're taking to keep their customers safe. So read on, book your tickets and see you at the movies!
Will I have to wear a mask?
Yes. You'll be required to wear a face covering at all times while at an indoor cinema, including while watching the film, unless you are exempt for health reasons. You will be able to take it off temporarily to eat or drink. The mask mandate is due to be lifted, pending a review, on 21 June.
Will there be social distancing?
Yes. In order to be Covid-secure, cinemas are having to run at reduced capacity to maintain social distancing, and will only allow you to book seats in the screen in small clusters, by household or bubble. Again - all going to plan - there will be no restrictions in England from 21 June.
What about drinks and snacks?
Specific government guidance for cinemas on food and drink is yet to be published, but the expectation is that it will be similar to the set-up from last year: limited snacks and drinks will be available. That includes cinema staples like popcorn, bagged sweets and bottled drinks.
Can I have a glass of wine?
Unclear. Last year, booze in a cinema was complicated by the "substantial meal" rule, which has since been dropped. The guidance for 'Step 3' in England is that "customers will have to order, eat and drink while seated", so only cinemas with at-seat service will be able to serve, until 21 June.
Can I meet up with friends to see a film?
Yes, but don't plan a big group outing just yet. 'Step 3' of the government's lockdown-easing roadmap in England, starting from 17 May, states that the 'rule of six' applies indoors, or a maximum of two households or bubbles. Similar rules apply for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Will I need to track and trace?
You will initially have to participate in track-and-trace, either at the booking stage, via the NHS phone app, or at the box office. You won't need to provide proof of a negative test or Covid vaccine for most screenings; the concept of a 'Covid passport' has only been suggested by the government.