As a significant number of English cinemas face the probability that they won’t be reopening for some time, the UK Cinema Association is questioning the logic behind the government’s decision-making processes.

As you most likely already know, it has been confirmed that England’s lockdown will be coming to an end on December 2nd, replaced instead by a tougher set of national tiered restrictions. Whilst many public venues look set to be reopened such as gyms, restaurants and pubs – with the latter two enjoying extended opening hours – cinemas have found themselves subject to tighter controls than before lockdown.

Once the current restrictions lift, cinemas will be allowed to open and operate again, but not in tier 3 areas, where they must remain closed. Whilst the government haven’t yet revealed which areas will be tier 3 as yet, we have been told to expect a significantly higher number of tier 3 regions than before. It’s a frustrating decision for cinema operators, not least when other establishments which, in theory, have a far higher chance of spreading the virus, such as pubs or gyms, have been given the all-clear.

Screen Daily is reporting that Phil Clapp, head of the UK Cinema Association, has spoken out against the decision.

Clapp has expressed bitter disappointment at the ruling on behalf of the UKCA’s members, stating:

“Today’s announcement makes absolutely no sense if the intention is to tackle and prevent local Covid-19 lockdowns. 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. As we approach Christmas, a time when families typically 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.

It is heartbreaking to note that within days of Warner Bros confirming the release of Wonder Woman 84 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.”

Clapp makes some good points, and from a common sense perspective, it’s hard to disagree with much of his argument. Cinemas, if effectively cleaned, do not possess the same transmission rates as bowling alleys or soft play areas because of the static, distanced nature of film viewing, so it’s unclear why they have been categorised as they have.

It certainly feels like an arbitrary decision, especially in light of other leisure and hospitality venues being allowed to open in tier 3 areas. Later this week should provide us with a clearer picture of just how many cinemas will be affected, when the tier 3 areas are announced. More news on this story as it develops.

Image: BigStock

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