South African movie theatres to resume operations from 28 August, five months after coronavirus-induced shutdown

The South African cinema industry has put on a united, non-competitive front for the first time to reopen on 28 August the cinemas which have been shut down across the country for the past five months due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

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All of South Africa’s cinema exhibitors, film distributors, and international studio representatives, along with other industry stakeholders, have been collaborating for the past few months to effectively map out the reopening of the industry on non-competitive terms.

One of the concerns the cinema chains have raised with the government is that they be allowed to restrict their audiences to 50 percent of seating capacity, rather than the current prescribed maximum of only 50 people per screening, as cinemas can vary from having less than 100 to over 300 seats.

A consolidated industry campaign titled It’s Time To Go BIG Again, involving all key role-players, has been extensively advertised on national radio and television stations, billboards, and social media for the past week to lure the audiences back.

While movie fans have welcomed the return of their weekly fix, they will have to adhere to very strict protocols as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the country.

One of the campaign’s core objectives is to assure movie fans that all those cinemas which are reopening will include the preventative measures as required by governmental regulations, to keep both cinema staff and patrons safe and healthy.

There will be temperature checks on arrival, mandatory wearing of masks for all staff and customers, except when consuming refreshments inside the cinema auditoria. Seating inside cinemas will be blocked off to ensure a 1.5-metre gap between patrons in compliance with social distancing norms.

All cinemas will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after each and every show.

Some of the latest Hollywood releases will kick off the cinematic reboot, but Bollywood fans will have to wait a few weeks longer to see their stars in action.

A B Moosa, CEO of the Avalon Group which has been the major Bollywood distributor and exhibitor in South Africa for more than a decade now, said his company had been inundated with queries during the lockdown about when they would be reopening, especially the group’s flagship Killarney CineCentre in Johannesburg, which had become the premier Bollywood venue in the country.

“While our other cinemas will reopen on 28 August, fans will have to be patient just a little bit longer for Killarney CineCentre, which will reopen in September,” Moosa said.

One of the reasons for this is that India stopped production of films and TV serials as it also battled the COVID-19 pandemic and has reactivated the industry very recently.

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