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Gloucestershire Business News

Cinemas could look very different after lockdown

Under the Government's current plans for easing lockdown, cinemas may be able to open from July 4 - but things are likely to look very different.

Last year, cinema box offices globally hit a new high of £35billion in sales, but the impact of coronavirus could have a long-term negative effect on the sector. Cinemas have already been closed since the start of lockdown in March.

Strict social distancing rules are likely to still be in place when the cinemas reopen, which will hit sales of both tickets and snacks. But an even bigger problem could be big studios holding back the release of blockbusters - or releasing them straight to streaming to services like Netflix and Disney+, as reported by The Times.

Operators like Cineworld, which has cinemas in Cheltenham and Gloucester, and Vue, which has a cinema in Stroud, rely on the exclusive release of big blockbusters to get people to leave their TVs and go to the cinema.

The summer's two biggest releases, Warner's Tenet and Disney's Mulan, are still expected to hit the big screen in July - a key time for cinemas, with families enjoying summer holiday treats.

But the impact of Covid-19 meant that another big children's release, Trolls World Tour, went straight to people's TVs, in the form of premium video on demand (PVOD) and made £83m within three weeks of release. It could mean that other operators are tempted to go down this route, rather than release films through cinemas.

Cineworld has already said that it plans to shift screening times when it reopens, to cut down crowding in the lobbies, and to sell fewer seats for each screening. Shares in the chain are down 75 per cent since the start of the year.

The new rules and extended lockdown are likely to also affect the opening of the new Tivoli Cinema, in the former BHS unit of Regent Arcade in Cheltenham.

Punchline said: "While smaller cinemas in the county, like those in Coleford and Cinderford, have always found a way to adapt to survive, this is potentially bad news for the larger cinemas in the county. Both Cineworld cinemas in the county are part of a leisure and retail development and support other restaurants, bars and shops in the area and Cheltenham's branch has recently undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment."

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