Vacant seats, pre-packed snacks: UK’s Odeon seeks to woo guests as cinemas reopen

(Reuters) – Britain’s Odeon Cinemas will reopen its theatres from July 4 with pre-packaged food and drinks and vacant seats between guests to reassure them of its safety measures, as England begins to ease its coronavirus lockdown.

The cinema operator, owned by the U.S.-based AMC Entertainment (AMC.N), said on Thursday it will initially reopen 10 sites, followed by another 88 by July 16, just in time for the summer blockbusters.

Operators, including rival Cineworld (CINE.L) and premium cinema group Everyman Media (EMANE.L), have laid out plans to reopen theatres after closing them in March to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Theatres will have contactless ticket checks and till payments to buy snacks, along with ‘Grab & Go’ kits that include a bottled drink, popcorn and a bag of sweets to speed up service, Odeon said.

Odeon’s cinemas will screen a mix of recent and remastered classics including “1917”, “Empire Strikes Back”, “Little Women”, “Bad Boys for Life”, “Dirty Dancing” and “The Greatest Showman”, said Carol Welch, managing director of UK and Ireland operations.

Safety measures will include staggered show start times to reduce queues and limited ticket sales to meet social distancing requirements, but families and social groups can sit together.

Parent AMC has already listed plans to reopen 450 U.S. theatres on July 15, and the rest in the country in time for Walt Disney’s (DIS.N) “Mulan” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”.

Odeon said its staff has been equipped with personal protective equipment and it will offer sanitising gels and wipes to guests.

Reporting and photo: Reuters

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