Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

11.58 7 Jun 2021


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Cinema owners say they hope they'll be able to stay open for good, as they prepare to welcome back viewers today.

With a major easing of restrictions today, cinemas across the country are opening for the first time this year.

They were able to reopen last summer for a few months, and then again last December for a few weeks.

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However, they've been closed for the vast majority of the past 15 months or so.

Unlike last summer, there’s now a steady stream of big-name releases set for release over the coming weeks - thanks to cinemas in the US elsewhere now also reopening.

Cinemas are showing the likes of Peter Rabbit 2, A Quiet Place Part II, Cruella and more from today, with the likes of Fast & Furious 9 and Marvel's Black Widow to follow in the coming weeks.

Arthouse and independent cinemas are also opening to some bigger name releases - with award winners like Nomadland, Sound of Metal and The Father screening alongside critical favourites such as First Cow.

Irish documentaries Phil Lynott: Songs for While I’m Away and The 8th are also showing, while Oscar-nominated Irish animation Wolfwalkers gets a fresh round of screenings after its big-screen release last December was cut short by lockdown.

Graham Spurling, Joint Managing Director of Movies@ cinemas (which has cinemas in Dundrum, Swords, Gorey and Dungarvan), told Newstalk Breakfast it has been a long, hard 15 months - but they're now "enthused and ready" to start screening films again.

He said: "We're all set... we're going to welcome around 2,000 customers to Dundrum today, which is a massive vote of confidence.

"We hope this time we stay open - we can't keep opening and closing like a book.

"We've got to stay open this time - have increased capacity, and get back to as near to normal trading as possible."

The reopening of cinemas comes with strict social distancing measures in place, with extra cleaning measures also in place.

Operators are currently restricted to 50 people per screen - although many smaller screens are in practice limited to just 15-20 people.

Graham said his cinemas are currently operating at around 10% of total capacity, and they'll be lobbying for increased capacity once it's safe to do so.

In terms of the business prospects for reopening, he said: "Everyone's going to open, so we have to open - you're in a no-win situation with this.

"It's going to be a struggle, as it was in the first two reopenings we had. The difference being this time we have new product to play, which we didn't have before."

He added the level of advance bookings shows audiences are keen to return to the big screen, and he praised staff for getting the cinemas ready to reopen from today.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Robert Michael/DPA/PA Images

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