Are cinemas now open in the UK and do you have to wear masks?

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  • As the UK looks forward to legal restrictions lifting, film fans are eager to know if cinemas are now open and what the rules on face masks are.

    It’s been a long waiting game for movie lovers this past year, with many cinemas across the UK closing their doors during several government-imposed lockdowns since March 2020.

    Whilst we’ve made do with streaming family films on Disney+ or catching the best movies on Netflix, there’s nothing that can quite compare to swapping the sofa for the big screen experience. But luckily, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown and it’s subsequent implementing has meant a return to normalcy for pubs, restaurants and cinemas.

    Are cinemas now open across the UK?

    Yes, cinemas are now open across the UK.

    The re-opening of cinemas came into effect from Monday 17th May. This was under Step 3 of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

    “Indoor entertainment and attractions such as cinemas, theatres, concert halls, bowling alleys, casinos, amusement arcades, museums and children’s indoor play areas are permitted to open with COVID-secure measures in place,” said a statement on the government website.

    Cinema chains like Vue and Odeon were two of the first to confirm the good news that they are fully open.

    As of July 19th, the rule of six no longer applies to cinema bookings.

    This means that you can make group bookings of over 6 people. Or similarly enjoy a trip with people from multiple households.

    Cinemas will continue to implement social distancing and other safe covid measures after this date though to help minimise the risk of transmission.

    Do you have to wear masks in the cinema?

    No, it is not a legal requirement to wear masks in cinemas in England. However many venues are actively encouraging customers to keep wearing face masks for the foreseeable future.

    Vue and Showcase Cinemas have publicly announced that they will recommend face mask use after July 9th – despite it no longer being law. This is similar to the new face mask rules in supermarkets.

    Showcase Cinema general manager Mark Barlow explained their face mask policy was in place to help protect the public from transmission:

    “We know that coronavirus cases are still rising in the UK, and with the Government’s easing of restrictions from Monday, we want to give our guests peace of mind at all times,” he said.

    A woman's hand holding up a face mask

    Credit: Getty

    Smaller independent cinema chain Curzon will also continue to ask cinema-goers to wear masks in public areas. A spokesperson confirmed that as “the pandemic is ongoing” protocols like wearing masks are “in place to protect our staff and ensure peace of mind for our customers.”

    Cineworld have similarly confirmed that they will be “encouraging our employees to continue wearing face coverings”. Though film fans at Cineworld won’t have to wear a face mask at all.

    UK Cinema Association Chief Executive Phil Clapp assured that whilst face mask use will vary from venue to venue, other safety measures will remain.

    “We will continue to work with the government and our members to ensure that the big screen experience remains a safe and enjoyable one, something repeated public surveys have shown is recognised by the overwhelming majority of cinema-goers,” he said. “As a result, we expect some safeguards – such as safety screens, provision of hand sanitisers and the implementation of enhanced cleaning regimes – to remain in place at many sites.”

    Those attending the cinema in other parts of the UK are still subject to government guidelines on face masks.

    Scotland moves to level zero from August 9. However, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed “beyond level zero, we will continue to require some baseline measures such as face coverings.”

    Wales and Northern Ireland both have legal restrictions in place on face coverings. And cinemas based in these countries have stated that masks must be worn during their visit.


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