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Big screen beckons as movie buffs get first chance to take a seat

Culture

Movie buffs will be able to get a cinema fix from noon Friday with some Queensland theatres raising the curtains on indoor theatre re-openings, even without a new release blockbuster to screen until July.

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The Five Star Cinemas group, which opened the Yatala Drive-in on May 2, is among the first to bring back the cinema experience, opening its New Farm theatres on Friday to 20 people per session.

Owner Peter Sourris told InQueensland the six auditoriums would be opening for three sessions a day, rather than the normal six sessions, to give staff longer for intensive cleaning between screenings. The cinemas will be screening Sam Mendes’ World War I epic 1917 starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Jane Austen comedy Emma, and a kids’ pack including sing-along Frozen 2.

He said demand showed people wanted the experience as much as being lured by the latest releases.

“We’ve been getting emails the whole time asking us when we are going to re-open. People want to come back, we felt we should open as soon as we could,” Sourris said.

Home of the Arts (HOTA) at the Gold Coast will open indoor cinema screenings on Saturday, bringing forward a planned opening date from June 13 to “move to a return to normal, to date nights, to socialising, to shared cinematic experiences.”

There will be 12 screenings a day based on a “thematic program” of HOTA favourites and family movies.

HOTA CEO Criena Gehrke said the precinct could use its 1100-seat auditorium in cinema mode to ensure audiences could social distance safely.

Cinemas can admit 20 people after the State Government introduced Stage 2 eased restrictions on Monday, ahead of the scheduled date of 12 June.

Cinemas that have submitted and received approval from health authorities for their COVID-safe plan will be able to admit more than 20 people from Friday.

But major cinema chains across the state are unlikely to open until July when new titles are expected to start flowing.

Executive director of the National Association of Cinema Operators, Michael Hawkins, said the industry was hopeful of a mid-July reopening 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 reopen with a slate of new titles, and we won’t be dependent on any particular title on any particular date,” he said.

But Hawkins said there may be a hold up on new titles for which distributors wanted an Australia-wide release date.

“Film distribution members of the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia will independently determine national release dates but are unlikely to release new titles until they are able to open across Australia on the same date, and only when cinema capacity and safety protocols make it economically viable to do so,” he said.

It is understood major cinema chains, led by Event, Hoyts and Village, have been planning re-openings around the anticipated July 16 release of Christopher Nolan’s thriller Tenet.

But Hollywood studio Warner Bros is reportedly waiting to see if 80 per cent of the world’s cinemas are operating before releasing Tenet globally.

Palace Cinemas, which has two Brisbane arthouse cinemas, has said it plans to reopen its 20-theatre chain on July 2 screening new releases including the Steve Carell and Rose Byrne political comedy Irresistible and Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island.

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Foundation for journalism and ideas.

 

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