Back to the Cinema. Prologue. Theatrical in the Times of COVID.

Note. The aim of this piece is not to convince anyone who may be uncomfortable with the idea of attending a cinema screening during these uncertain times that is it is a safe experience. This writer is   aware of the risks being taken through attending new release and classic film screenings. The experience it is worth documenting both from providing a personal perspective and a window into what the experience is like both for those who’d consider going and people who may be interested in reading about the experience.

 For the regular theatrical  film watches the chance to go back and attend  local cinema will be seen  as a blessing in these uncertain times .Certain  audiences will avoid them altogether until there is a COVID-19 vaccine but normal life has to resume at some point and  events like cinemas reopening represent a very small step towards that direction. This writer’s impression was always that it would be relatively straightforward enforcing social distancing in the cinema because outside of blockbuster opening weekends most regular screenings are socially distanced COVID or otherwise. This writer’s local cinemas had been close for an extended period beyond what was typical across the UK. This means that along with the arrival of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet across the country there was some other new product available for screening and review along with seeing the hugely pretentious but often awe-inspiring epic (review coming soon. Five screenings over five days for a myriad of different films including the three biggest releases that were meant to greet the opening of cinemas around the UK. What was found?

It was a strange and yet reassuring experience. Ticket booking is recommended online (although there were staff  working on the counters in the three cinemas I visited .)Assuming patrons aren’t looking to purchase food and following mask guidelines they can   head  straight into their  screening of choice after letting a member of staff scan the QR code confirming online ticket purchase. On four of the five occasions outside of visitors wearing face masks things were relatively normal. In fact, on these occasions it was a significantly better cinematic experience than your typical screening. The type of attendee keen to go back just cinemas during these times (at least in the UK) is respectful enough of the environment to not eat, talk loudly or light up their phone while the film is playing. The screening of Tenet attended have some of the seating rows blocked off. Even with this measure it   was comfortably under the chain’s capacity limit. The one outlier of the /  screenings was a UK preview of The New Mutants (the review will likely be dropping after this piece.) this was the first instance  where there was limited talking/eating during the adverts and through small sections of the film .This was a little bit disconcerting but  keeping a  mask on at all times it was still a relatively straightforward experience.

These   trips back to the cinema were a relatively pain free and comfortable experience. As someone who is used to attending screenings w flying solo that was a level of reassurance in having the options to attend post lockdown (even if the theatrical release schedule over the next few months looks somewhat barren. If anyone is in a similar position as a regular cinemagoer If the necessary precautions and masks are kept on when appropriate   the experience of attending new releases in a post COVID 19 world  may take some getting used to but is more than available for those that want to take it up .

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