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'Something is going to break': Omniplex boss says cinemas won't be viable long-term with 2m social distancing

The acceleration of the reopening roadmap has allowed businesses like cinemas to open earlier than expected.

Image: Shutterstock/VDB Photos

MASSIVELY REDUCED OCCUPANCY is expected for cinemas across the country, with 75% of cinemas not expected to be viable in the long term.

This is according to the director of Omniplex Cinemas, Mark Anderson, who says that a maximum of 25% of their seats will be able to be filled with two-metre social distancing requirements.

“That elastic band can’t stretch forever. At some point something is going to break and cinemas are going to close because you cannot physically operate a cinema employing just 25% of your seats,” said Anderson.

Anderson does believe, however, that if social distancing guidelines are reduced to one metre, 80% of cinemas will be viable.

The announcement that indoor facilities can re-open was made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his speech last Friday when he unveiled an updated Phase Three. 

Under the revised roadmap, cinemas and theatres can reopen earlier than initially expected, albeit with a capacity of 50 people.

Speaking at Monday evening’s NPHET briefing, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that it was up to each individual sector to interpret the 50 person limit.

“We have set out clear public health advice, how that gets operationalised by an individual sector requires detailed knowledge and understanding of that sector.”

This means that cinemas can interpret the guidelines to allow 50 people per cinema screen, rather than the entire building.

According to Holohan, specific advice per sector will not be issued, but that there should be responsible adherence to the guidelines.

Anderson says that Omniplex cinemas will operate with a maximum of 50 people per screen, but audiences will likely be smaller due to the ranging sizes of cinema screens.

Omniplex plans to open seven of their cinemas on Friday 3 July, with more opening later on in the month. These include Cork, Rathmines, Limerick, Galway, Wexford, Arklow and a new cinema in Drogheda.

With a lack of new releases, Anderson says that classic films will be shown to help bridge the gap until new films are released.

The Irish Film Institute in Dublin has welcomed cinemas being allowed to reopen earlier than expected but has not released plans for reopening yet.

“We will continue to work on those with a view to opening as soon as is feasible and safe to do so,” said a spokesperson for the IFI.

The IFI plans to introduce a one-way system, add hand sanitising points throughout the building and move to a paperless ticketing system. 

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Walk-ins will not be permitted, with only pre-booked tickets being accepted.

Element Pictures cinemas, including the Light House in Dublin and Palás in Galway, will not be opening on 29 June, and instead will be aiming for 20 July. 

Tweet by @Light House Cinema Source: Light House Cinema/Twitter

Movies@, a cinema group with locations in Dundrum, Swords, Gorey and Dungarvan have announced they are reopening when restrictions are lifted on 29 June.

Three ODEON cinemas will reopen on 13 July, with Blanchardstown, Coolock and Limerick being the first to open their doors. Their remaining eight cinemas will reopen on 20 July.

In England, Cineworld have planned to open all of their cinemas by the end of July, but have not yet released plans for their Irish branches.

Omniplex, ODEON and the Movies@ chains are among the few cinema chains to have announced re-opening plans to date. Others are expected to confirm their plans in the coming weeks.

- With reporting by Dominic McGrath and Michelle Hennessy 

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