Face Masks Not Mandatory at U.K. Cinemas: Reopening Guidelines

Cineworld
Courtesy of Cineworld

Cineworld in London's Leicester Square

The U.K. Cinema Association has published its guidelines for safe operation ahead of July 4, when exhibitors will officially be allowed to reopen.

Less than 10 days before exhibitors are officially allowed to open in the U.K. on July 4, more than three months after shutting their doors in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the U.K. Cinema Association has published its official health and safety guidelines.

The guidelines come just as the main British cinema chains have been outlining their reopening plans and efforts to increase levels hygiene and enforce social distancing. AMC Theatres-owned Odeon is set to be the first out of the block, announcing that it will reopen on Saturday, July 4. 

The main talking point from the document — entitled Cinemas – keeping workers and customers safe during COVID-19 — will no doubt be the hot button topic of face masks, with the guidelines confirming that masks are not to be made mandatory, in line with U.K. law.

The subject has been a major source of debate over the past few days, with cinemas in the U.S. — including AMC — reversing their decision to not enforce the wearing of masks by customer. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week, Mooky Greidinger, CEO of exhibition giant Cineworld, which owns Regal in the U.S., said that masks would only be compulsory for the staff in his U.K. sites, prompting a petition by company workers. 

The new guidelines include five key points. 

- Measures to ensure social distancing at every point during a visit to the cinema, with a particular emphasis on auditoriums
- Enhancing cleaning and hygiene regimes, including the provision of antibacterial gels stations for cinema-goers throughout each site
- The installation of plastic screens at key contact points to help protect customers and staff
- Encouragement wherever possible of online booking, e-ticketing and contactless payment
- Revised scheduling of films to allow time for cleaning of auditoriums between screenings and to avoid crowding in corridors.

"Today’s launch represents an important next step in our efforts to once again bring the big screen experience to the cinema-going public," said Phil Clapp, CEO of the U.K. Cinema Association. "We know from recent surveys that a large proportion of our audience can’t wait to come back, but they understandably want to know the steps that cinemas will be taking to ensure their continued welfare. The measures set out in the document represent more than anything a clear pledge from the UK cinema sector as to the measures that will be taken to protect both audiences and staff members alike."

Said BFI head Ben Roberts: "On behalf of all film-lovers, and everyone for whom their local cinema is a central part of their community, we are delighted to see another step taken towards cinemas reopening their doors with the safety of audiences as the priority. The fact that through these guidelines many cinemas will re-open quickly and safely is fantastic."

Roberts added: “However, we know that many sites including a large proportion of independent cinemas will not be able to reopen immediately and will still need support to reopen after months of closure and the additional costs of implementing social distancing measures. So we remain committed to making sure that the entire exhibition community is supported through the ongoing challenges."