Nearly half (41%) of cinemas said they “will not be able to open” if they had to impose social distancing measures, while those who believe they could expect to survive only three months, according to a recent survey from the Independent Cinema Office.
Of those who cannot envisage opening, 62% cited a reduction in seat capacity and income, while 28% pointed to the physicality of the building itself and 2% highlighted the cost of social distancing measures themselves.
A government ticket subsidy was suggested by a majority of respondents (72%) as a possible method to enable venues to open, while 41% proposed PPE grants. Other answers included reduced terms or no minimum guarantees from distributors and simply remaining closed until it was “proven safe” to reopen. The survey, which spoke to nearly 500 CEOs, directors and managers across independent cinemas, film festivals and multiplexes, found that 59% did believe a reopening with social distancing measures was possible, although a 20% increased cost and halving of capacity would limit this to three months. Hand sanitiser stations (91%), face masks for staff (83%), gloves for staff (80%) and perspex screens for the box office (65%) were the most common PPE suggestions, although one-way systems and a ban on cash sales, physical tickets and fresh popcorn were also cited. It will be autumn at the earliest before venues reopen, according to the majority of those surveyed, with only 28% envisioning opening doors before September and 14% believing it will be 2021 before cinemagoers can return. Audience confidence levels (4.5) and the practicalities of reopening with social distancing measures (4.5) rank highest on the list of concerns for respondents, while the cost of implementing the measures (3.6) combined with the loss of revenue (3.2) also factored strongly. One industry figure who responded suggested: “Cinemas should be asking for support to remain closed and keep on staff rather than rush to reopen and create health risks, which in the long-term, would be more damaging. “Stay closed, stay safe, stay solvent.”