Melbourne’s Cinema Nova, the Eddie Tamir family-owned cinemas and Village Cinemas’ Coburg drive-in will re-open next month – but indications are that most cinemas in other states are unlikely to turn on the lights until July.
Palace Cinemas will open its doors nationally on July 2, with most locations limited to three sessions a day to allow time for extra cleaning.
Among the titles it will screen are Universal’s The King of Staten Island and The High Note and Sony’s The Burnt Orange Heresy.
Cinema Nova and the Classic, Lido and Cameo Cinemas will resume trading on June 22 when the Victorian government will allow gatherings of up to 50 people.
“We will be very pleased to welcome our audience back. Nothing replaces seeing films made for theatrical release than screening in the cinema on the big screen,” Cinema Nova joint executive director Natalie Miller tells IF.
“We will be practicing social distancing and a rigid regime for hygiene,” adds Miller, who plans to bring back such titles as Parasite, The Lighthouse and JoJo Rabbit.
Planned are themed nights featuring The Room, a Rocky Horror Picture Show singalong, Cats and The Big Lebowski.
The Coburg drive-in will open its gates next Wednesday, screening films whose runs were curtailed when cinemas shuttered in March: The Invisible Man, Bloodshot and Sonic the Hedgehog. Loyalty club members will pay $25 per car and non-members $35.
Gino Munari, Village Cinemas chief operating officer, tells IF that while there are no restrictions on capacity the company would be “conservative” on the numbers admitted. The diner will be open for takeaways only with a limit of 20 people at any one time.
Munari says Village is working towards re-opening the entire circuit by mid-July, when Warner Bros. is due to launch Chris Nolan’s espionage/time travel thriller Tenet.
In Sydney, Event Cinemas’ Skyline drive-in in Blacktown resumed trading last weekend, screening Bad Boys for Life.
Four films are screening each night, a mix of recent releases and library titles including Frozen II, Ford V Ferrari, The Goonies, Dolittle, The Invisible Man, Birds of Prey, Bad Boys for Life, Grease, Spies in Disguise, IT Chapter Two, Knives Out and The Gentlemen.
There is social distancing between cars and in common areas, plus online bookings and contact-less payment in the diner candy bar.
In South Australia, Wallis Cinemas has not set a re-opening date although the government will allow up to 80 people from next Monday.
“At this stage it is 20 people per screen with a maximum of 80 per complex, which wouldn’t cover electricity,” Wallis senior advisor Bob Parr tells IF.
“The other problem is lack of product. We expect it will be the end of June before we open properly but we may open some odd sessions prior to test the water.”
Independent Cinemas Australia is working with the major chains and distributors with a view to an industry-wide launch in early or mid-July.
Michael Hawkins, National Cinema Operators of Australia executive director, says: “The industry is still hopeful of a mid-July re-opening date across the country.
“Already distributors are offering release dates for new content, and importantly, Australian films, to coincide with that timeline. So we will be able to re-open with a slate of new titles and we won’t be dependent on any particular title on any particular date.
“Opening prior to mid-July will of course be a decision for each exhibitor with consideration for what is financially viable for each. It is likely that smaller locations or regional cinemas may open ahead of mid-July, but decisions will be made on what makes economic sense and the responsibility some of those cinemas have to their regional communities.”
Hoyts Cinemas CEO Damian Keogh says he hopes to re-start in early July for the school holidays.
Exhibitors are expected to implement checkerboard seating to ensure safe distancing, except for family groups and premium cinemas.