Business

Vue Cinemas hoping for mid-July reopening

A sign in the window of a Vue cinema in Altrincham, Greater Manchester

The boss of one of the UK's biggest cinema chains is hopeful the business can reopen in mid-July.

Vue Cinemas' chief executive Tim Richards told the BBC he is still talking to the authorities about social distancing measures.

But if all goes to plan, the chain could be back in business for the launch of director Christopher Nolan's action movie Tenet on 17 July, he said.

"We can control how many people come into our cinemas," he said.

The coronavirus lockdown forced the closure of cinemas across the UK and elsewhere in the world.

Any reopening of the UK's cinemas could only come as part of a government-sanctioned relaxation of lockdown measures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement on Sunday about plans for easing the restrictions.

"We are seeing our markets in Europe opening before ours," Mr Richards said. "We are trying to work with the government to demonstrate we are not like sporting fixtures and pop concerts.

"We can control how many people come into our cinemas at any one time - we have the ability to control the exit and entrance."

Image copyright Universal Pictures
Image caption Trolls World Tour went straight to streaming in many countries

Cinemas, he said, were a big part of the UK's social fabric and research pointed to film-going as one of the main activities people wanted to do after the lockdown is lifted.

The closure of cinemas in many countries meant some movies were released simultaneously on streaming platforms and in those outlets still open.

This dual release for Trolls World Tour caused a huge dispute between Odeon and film studio Universal.

Odeon Cinemas said last week it was banning all Universal films as a result, accusing Universal of "breaking the business model and dealings between our two companies".

Simultaneous releases of this kind are damaging to cinemas, as it will make it less likely people will visit a public screening.

But Mr Richards did not see this way of releasing films becoming a trend. The "big screen" was still how people preferred to see big releases, he said.

"Can you imagine watching the new Bond film on a 27-inc Mac?," he asked.

He said he had sympathy with Universal over the release of Trolls. "They had already invested heavily in marketing and promotion, and suddenly they had no screens [to show it on]," Mr Richards said.

"What [Universal] did does not mean there is a new direction of travel. We are not seeing any change," he said.

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