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Coronavirus: 'Few, if any' cinemas will reopen next week

By Nelli Bird
BBC News

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media captionNo food or drink will be on sale to cinema-goers if premises open

Cinemas in Wales are unlikely to reopen next week because of restrictions on how they can operate, according to a trade association.

Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, said "few, if any" will reopen as planned on 27 July.

Current guidance says cinemas will not be able to sell any food if they reopen on that date and there is no concession on easing social distancing rules.

A Welsh Government spokesman said it was working with the association.

The Maxime in Blackwood, Caerphilly county, is one of the cinemas which will not be reopening on Monday.

It has five screens with the biggest seating 232 people, but with 2m social distancing only 60 would be allowed in.

Steve Reynolds, director of Picturedrome Cinemas which runs the Maxime, said: "If we had to drop our capacity and there was no food sales then it would not be viable for us to open.

"And I think I can speak for most cinemas in Wales on that, the big companies as well.

"While we may be able to manage on the smaller capacity, we wouldn't wish to, but if we had to, maybe that would be an option with the food and sales, but if you take both away, then we wouldn't survive."

image captionThe pick and mix trays would have to remain empty if cinemas were to open on Monday

The Maxime employs 37 people and, while the last few months have partly been spent refurbishing the building, they are desperate to reopen.

"You see a business like this which has been closed for four months, it's very difficult," Mr Reynolds added.

"Without the government's furlough system I think it would have been impossible to survive and keep our staff.

"We didn't have the advantage of the business rate refund, most businesses in town did. As yet, we've had no financial help.

"There has been an announcement for the arts and independent cinemas, a fund of £1.5bn. We've had no information about that yet, we have enquired.

"We are financially viable to open up if we have the rules right. The staff are so eager to come back."

image captionThe Maxime is due to open on Monday but restrictions means that is unlikely to happen

The pandemic has been hard on the film and cinema industry.

The UK Cinema Association (UKCA) estimates 95% of cinema staff across the UK were put on furlough and film releases were in doubt because of the worldwide nature of the industry.

Wales is the only part of the UK where cinemas are yet to reopen.

Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UKCA, has been speaking to the Welsh Government about the current advice and thinks it is unlikely people in Wales will be going to the cinema next week.

"Clearly, we've not spoken to all cinemas in Wales, but we we suspect that few, if any, will feel able to open at that time," he said.

"It's a conversation which is ongoing."

image captionSteve Reynolds said his staff were eager to return to work but that conditions had to be right

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We are working with cinemas on the issue of selling food and drink as part of reopening of indoor hospitality [which can open from 3 August].

"We are exploring options around a package of funding support for the culture sector."

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