Return to the big screen expected to be slow and cautious – cinema owner

Michael McAdam managing director of Movie House Cinemas in Northern Ireland showing the distance between two newly installed
Michael McAdam managing director of Movie House Cinemas in Northern Ireland showing the distance between two newly installed recliner chairs which Mr McAdam says is approximate 1m and 1/2 apart. PA Photo. Picture date: Friday June 26, 2020. See PA story ULSTER Coronavirus Cinema. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The return of movie fans to the big screen is likely to be slow and cautious, a cinema owner has said.

Cinemas across Northern Ireland have been given an indicative opening date of July 29 by the Stormont Executive.

Michael McAdam, owner of Movie House cinemas, told the PA news agency that he expects the return of customers to be slow.

Cinema bosses are hoping for a steady recovery (Moviehouse/PA)[/caption]

“It’s going to be a slow start, people aren’t going to be running out straight away, they are going to be cautious and we are going to be cautious ourselves in getting our staff trained up, so it is going to take us a while,” he said.

“A nice gentle recovery would be perfect for us.”

He described how his staff at his cinemas at Cityside in north Belfast, Glengormley, Maghera and Coleraine, have ensured they are ready to accommodate social distancing rules.

This includes screens at the ticket and snack counters, temperature gauges as well as staggering start and finishing times for films to avoid a crowded foyer, a one-way system, allocated seating with extra spacing and additional cleaning.

“Customer confidence has got to be the big big thing here,” he said.

Planned social distancing in cinemas (Moviehouse/PA)

In terms of face coverings, he said they will be optional.

“If our staff want to wear masks, they can, we have the visors for them too if they wish, too, but when it comes to the public we are not in a position to make customers do that,” he said.

However Mr McAdam said the supply of the latest films from the United States has also been impacted by the pandemic.

The supply of the latest films from the US has been affected by the pandemic (Movie House/PA)

One of the most anticipated Disney releases, Mulan, has been delayed.

“Because they can’t get America open, it is affecting the American releases and you have to be so careful about piracy, the likes of Mulan have to go worldwide, so unfortunately it is not in the control of anything that we can do,” he said.

“Mulan is now moved to August 21 which is unfortunate when the kids are starting to go back to school.

“In terms of what we can show, we are going to have to be very creative, looking at primarily what we finished with to begin with. We’ll get a lot of back catalogue stuff so people will have the opportunity to see things like Dirty Dancing and maybe Apollo 13 but it is really hard to say at the minute because everything is so uncertain.

“There are quite a few British and Irish films which maybe haven’t had a proper cinema release date yet that we would certainly look at because they are fresh.

Movie House cinemas have invested in a temperature gauge to check customers as they arrive (Liam McBurney/PA)

“It is important we get some fresh product in.”

Mr McAdam said some of their most popular films in recent years have been the James Bond series.

“They always do particularly well, that’s the kind of thing we are looking for, and if only we could get that Top Gun film (Top Gun: Maverick) redated for this year, we are expecting big big things from that,” he said.

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