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‘TIME RUNS OUT 7.17.20’ read the first official trailer for Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated sci-fi action thriller Tenet. In hindsight, that tagline is deliciously ironic now that Tenet has been delayed yet again, proving that the time until cinemas re-open nationwide is moving further and further out of sight. In the wake of theatre chains closing their doors internationally due to COVID-19, the slow and precarious process of their reopening has been eyed with caution. Doubt over the profitability of theatrically releasing new films during a pandemic has led to studios pushing their latest tentpoles further along the release schedule, resulting in practically all new release dates being subject to change.
Nothing short of a full return to lockdown will prevent cinemas reopening; it’s a question of when not if. While Odeon is opting for a staggered re-opening of venues, Cineworld and Vue slated their reopening for July 31st, scrapping their original July 4th date following the delays of Tenet and Mulan. That leaves the question of what else can we look forward to watching once cinemas reopen, and what will that look like with the addition of social distancing measures?
The previous delays to Tenet and Mulan meant that cinemas had to postpone their original plans for re-opening, but what about the Odeon branches currently open? Rather cleverly, they’re opting to rerelease popular hits from Harry Potter to Star Wars as well recent releases such as Pixar’s Onward that had their theatrical runs cut short.
Internationally, there was speculation that studios will do away with worldwide day-and-date releases in favour of staggering releases across several countries at a time depending on which have open theatres with financially viable attendance. However, this isn’t unprecedented, considering that this release strategy was actually the norm before Jaws in 1975. Warner Bros are opting for this type of staggered release for Tenet, which should arrive in UK cinemas on August 26th. Disney however, have decided to release Mulan exclusively on Disney+ on September 4th, with the caveat that in addition to the cost of a Disney+ subscription Mulan will cost $29.99 to rent.
Regardless, when cinemas do finally re-open, what safety precautions will be implemented? The agreement between cinema chains and the government, outlined at lovecinema.com, ask that you book your tickets online, or otherwise use contactless payment; that everyone uses the provided hand sanitiser upon arrival; that empty seats be left between parties, and that everyone sits in the seat specified on their ticket. Each venue will be cleaned more frequently and thoroughly, and plastic safety screens will be constructed at ticket desks and concessions kiosks. While some staff members will be wearing masks, it is not compulsory for audiences to do likewise – however, I suggest it is worth investing in a breathable mask if you haven’t already. To reduce queues there will be fewer screenings and more time between each.
The reduced seating capacity and the reduced number of screenings will be a blow to the already beleaguered arts sector, but what can we look forward to seeing when cinemas re-open? Surprisingly, during Disney’s recent announcement that Mulan has been delayed, the only other film on their upcoming release schedule not pushed back was the long-awaited X-Men spin-off The New Mutants, which even before COVID-19 had been delayed countless times. The film’s recent Comic-Con panel confirmed that, contrary to rumours, it does indeed exist will be released on August 28th. You can also catch Janelle Monáe’s horror film Antebellum on August 21st, the Kingsman prequel The King’s Man on September 16th, and Wonder Woman 1984 on October 2nd – unless of course any of these are delayed yet again, and let’s face it, that may very likely happen. But in the meantime, if you’re starved for new content then perhaps try out a new streaming service, or check out the content The National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe are putting out on YouTube, and don’t forget to stay safe.