A small, empty cinema
(Getty)

  • Cinema chains are anxiously awaiting the publication of regulations that will allow them to reopen – and the conditions that will apply.
  • Ster-Kinekor says cinemas are good at access control already.
  • Nu Metro anticipates "staggering access" and disinfecting doorhandles and ticket counters every 30 minutes.
  • There will probably also be fewer shows every day.
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There will likely be fewer movies every day, and a lot more disinfectant, when cinemas reopen under relaxed lockdown rules announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday.

Ramaphosa promised details on when and under what conditions cinemas – and theatres, casinos, and salons – will be allowed to reopen "in due course", and cinema chains are anxiously awaiting those details.

"At this stage we are awaiting the Government Gazette in order to get clarity regarding the applicable social distancing and health and safety protocols including issues like the permitted number of guests per show," said Ster-Kinkor's head of marketing Lynne Wylie.

Ster-Kinekor believes cinemas are in a good position to manage their customers, because controlling access is central to the business – an argument that has also been made by casinos, with apparent success.

See also: Casinos reportedly hope to reopen in July, with every second slot machine turned off

Both Ster-Kinekor and Nu Metro have promised social distancing in their foyer spaces as well as in the screening rooms themselves, and a push towards more online ticket sales. Both have also promised stringent hygiene measures, with Nu Metro saying it plans to disinfect some surfaces, such as door handles and ticket counters, every 30 minutes.

It would also be "staggering access", Nu Metro says. 

Movie theatres are not considered particularly dangerous as spreading grounds for the coronavirus, especially if everyone in one wears a mask.

See also: Government is working on a plan to re-open South Africa’s cinemas

But the movie experience is likely to be different, and shows harder to catch.

Measures implemented or considered in various parts of the world – though no yet confirmed in South Africa – include removing all self-serve components, such as flavouring shakers for popcorn, while efforts to spread patrons around theatres mean no groups larger than two people are allowed.

In order to accommodate much more thorough cleaning than usual, show times are also spread much further apart, with schedules further reduced to make sure no two movies start at the same time.