Since cinemas reopened on May 17th in the UK, I’ve been fortunate enough to make 3 visits during that time, and went many times when these reopened back last summer.
Pleased with, the most part, distancing procedures, cleanliness and operation in that time making it comfortable to visit.
A huge fan of the cinematic experience, the screens, sound, comfort, the enjoyment in the shared experience with other people, passionate about seeing it thrive.
So it was with great dismay that as an avid cinema-goer, this weekend I saw completely different sides of this, which were concerning.
A Tale Of Two Cinemas
Most recently I’ve visited a smaller independent cinema, an independent chain cinema site and a global behemoth cinema, whom we’ve covered extensively over the past 12 months.
The independent cinema, in particular, led the way, there were no touch points (unless you count collecting food products).
The doors were all either automatic into the building, or the auditoriums themselves were held open by staff until everyone had entered to prevent everyone’s hands from touching the door.
The tickets were all digitally scanned by a scanner, contactless payment was preferred, and you could smell the cleaning products in a good way in the room.
Your seat was noticeably clean, and there were long times between films to ensure cleaning was completed we were informed by a manager in the foyer.
We were also reminded to check-in via the NHS app, and the QR code was very much everywhere in the screens themselves, the foyer and concessions areas.
A very good and safe experience, where you saw staff regularly cleaning the foyer and toilet areas whilst we were there. There were hand sanitizer stations in the foyer, in the screens and corridors, and even the exits. Very well done.
This was very similar at the independent chain that we also visited.
The Other Cinema…
Read more: UK Cinemas Are Gearing Up For A May Opening
Now the opposite side of this became apparent at the large chain cinema. Which in all honesty I wasn’t expecting to be a bad experience at all.
Being one of the biggest cinema companies in the world, you expect leadership (in setting the example) investment and safety. Especially more so after the CEO has commented about this very thing and how safe it is.
With the rise of the Indian variant in England, and being unvaccinated whilst risk wise, I don’t consider myself high, I’m still cautious and taking the correct precautions to prevent any infection. Which I feel made this more infuriating.
Cinema is a fantastic experience, and something I want to see thrive, naturally some people are more hesitant about returning than others and that was the key metric here.
If someone had visited for the first time in 12 months, and was concerned about their safety, this cinema, in particular, did little to qualm those concerns.
If anything, they’d give the experience a negative emotion and negate the hard efforts and work of other cinema teams and employees who do it well.
Upon arriving into the foyer, the only staff you could see were behind the counter. No clear member of management or an assistant on the floor.
So, there was no one guiding you to check-in via the app, in fact, it was very difficult to actually find the QR code or posters. After we’d purchased some food/drink we headed towards the screen.
We had been unable to get a digital ticket so somebody had to ‘check’ our ticket physically, and once handed back there was no hand sanitizer available.
In fact, I do not recall seeing any hand sanitizer anywhere, certainly not in the screen (like the previous cinemas above), corridors or in the foyer.
Having seen this present in smaller, independent cinemas who don’t have the same money as this company that was really disappointing to see. (But luckily, they still had soap in the toilet…)
Once we entered the screen heading to our seat it was apparent the screen had not been cleaned.
With giving the benefit of the doubt here on mistakes, this shouldn’t be happening when a company reopens as a nation fights its way out of a pandemic.
Cleanliness especially in cinemas is difficult to begin with, and the film was starting here so we had to grab a member of staff.
To their credit, they were fantastic apologetic and went away to grab cleaning materials. But it left a poor impression as we stood, that it hadn’t been cleaned.
Or cleaned properly.
Armrest touch points hadn’t been wiped down, there were other bits of rubbish elsewhere and if that was the case in one screen, is it the case in all of them?
If so, most people won’t be comfortable visiting this particular Cinema.
Thankfully this was sorted and they also sprayed the seating down with disinfectant to qualm any concerns of potential lingering bacteria.
However, I felt uneasy for the rest of my time in the cinema as a result, especially compared to the prior visits elsewhere.
Now mistakes occur everywhere and every day, and that happens and I’m sure this was a one-off, but in the current climate, things like this shouldn’t be missed.
The company should be providing sanitizer like everyone else in obvious places to encourage people, staff and customers alike to use.
The NHS trace check-in points should be explicit and people should be reminded just in case a case actually gets reported there.
Any worldwide leader in the market should be setting the bar and the example to every other cinema operator and delivering a much higher standard across their sites.
But it seems from these experiences, independent cinemas are setting the bar and going above and beyond, and just maybe they deserve our money more.
Have you returned to the cinema since May 17th?
How was your experience?
Let us know in the comments below.
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