Cinemas yet to decide if they'll re-open during COVID-19 alert level 2

Cinemas yet to decide if they'll re-open during COVID-19 alert level 2
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As New Zealand waits to hear the Government's announcement on when the country moves to COVID-19 alert level 2, whether or not cinemas will be able to reopen remains unclear. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that indoor gatherings under level 2 must be restricted to under 100 people, leaving both larger cinema chains and smaller independent operations to consider if opening their doors is a viable option.  

"What level 2 looks like for the New Zealand cinema industry remains unclear," Event Cinemas NZ's general manager Carmen Switzer told Newshub. 

"Event Cinemas is seeking further clarification from central Government over the 100 people cap as the nationwide chain of multiplexes considers how to operate." 

The concept of staggering screenings is a possible solution, but Switzer says there is another issue to contend with: the lack of content available. 

"With all the major Hollywood releases delayed and with the production industry in semi-hiatus, attracting people out of their homes and into cinemas is no easy task." 

Smaller independent cinemas have big decisions to make, too.

Richard Dalton, owner of Auckland's Lido Cinema, says he is "still trying to get his head around" what level 2 will mean for his business. For the Lido, he says operating at a reduced capacity won't be economical, especially when the wage subsidy scheme comes to an end.

He says he also feels a duty of care for his patrons - the majority of whom fit into the older demographic - to ensure their health and wellbeing is a priority. 

Owner of the Deluxe and Town Hall Cinemas in Christchurch Jeremy Stewart says the venue is keen to "do what we can to re-open". The cinema would likely operate with limited hours and film choices, but Stewart says he feels the need to provide some certainty and normality to their community.

Some cinemas may look to follow in the footsteps of The Hollywood in the Auckland suburb of Avondale, which brought in the initiative of reducing ticket sales to only half the available seats in order to practice social distancing in mid-March of this year, before alert level 3 was announced.