Cinemas In England Can Re-Open Next Week Under Government’s COVID Winter Plan, But Tier Restrictions Draw Criticism – Update

Tom Grater
·4 min read

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 26: The UK government has confirmed which sections of the country will be entering the three tiers of Covid-19 restrictions. Levels 1 and 2 will allow for cinemas to re-open, while tier 3 will not, as of December 2 when a four-week nationwide lockdown is lifted.

London and Liverpool will be placed in tier 2, meaning cinemas can resume business, albeit with restrictions in place such as distancing and early close times. Various other measures such as people not being able to interact with other households indoors (outside of support bubbles) will also limit the number of people who can attend screenings.

Cinemas will however remain closed in Greater Manchester, several parts of the North East including Newcastle, the Midlands including Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester, as well as part of the South East and South West, all of which are in tier 3.

PREVIOUSLY, November 23: Cinemas in England have been given the green light to re-open next week when a four-week country-wide lockdown comes to an end on December 2.

Culture secretary Olive Dowden confirmed on Twitter that indoor performances will be allowed to resume with numbers capped at 1,000 and 50% venue capacity (whichever is lower), but this will be restricted in certain areas of the country.

England is re-entering a tiered lockdown system, similar to what it employed before this second lockdown though with slightly stricter regulations. Venues will be allowed to re-open in tiers 1 and 2, though they will need to remain shut in the more strict tier 3, which will be where infections are highest. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their COVID restrictions implemented locally and are not part of this latest announcement.

The UK Cinema Association released a fiery response to today’s news, slamming the government’s decision to continue to mandate cinemas shut in tier 3 zones, describing it as “heart-breaking” and urging the gov to re-consider. You can read the full statement further down this article.

It has not been revealed which sections of the country will be placed in which tier when the lockdown lifts next week. However, key cinema market London has a growing rate of COVID infections at present and is expected to be in at least tier 2.

Cineworld, the country’s second-largest cinema chain, is also unlikely to re-open venues. The company closed down its entire circuit prior to the second lockdown, citing a lack of available high-profile films. Deadline has asked the chain if it is now planning to re-open but comments made to us by CEO Mooky Greidinger recently make it look unlikely to happen pre-Christmas.

In terms of the slate, Wonder Woman 1984 is on the horizon after WB announced it will stick to its December 16 date. That could be a boost to cinemas that do re-open but the fact WB will also put the film simultaneously online will likely cause a problem for the multiplexes due to their strict windowing policies.

Here’s the response from Phil Clapp, chief exec of the UK Cinema Association:

“This Association and its members have worked extraordinarily hard – in consultation with Government – to put wide-reaching safeguarding measures in place in all UK cinemas.

Not only are these appreciated by audiences – with our latest industry survey suggesting that 93 per cent of returning cinema-goers reporting that they had felt safe during visit – but more importantly have resulted in no recorded cases of COVID being traced back to the cinema.

As we approach Christmas, a time when families typical return to the big screen, this decision – based as it seems to be on little or no evidence of risk – will make the continued survival of many cinemas all the more challenging.

Cinemas provide vital support for good mental health at this time – much in the way that gymnasiums, which will be allowed to open it seems, do for physical health. But unlike gyms, cinemas are able to deliver an experience where people are sat socially-distanced for much of their visit in strongly air-conditioned theatres, all the while wearing face coverings.

It is heart-breaking to note that within days of Warner Bros confirming the release of Wonder Woman 1984 on December 16 – only the second tentpole release since March, Government seems needlessly to have put another barrier in place to the sector’s recovery.

We would ask that this decision is reconsidered as a matter of urgency if we are not to see further damage done to the UK cinema sector.”

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