U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hopes of entertainment venues benefiting from rapid testing when the country begins to reopen after coronavirus lockdown is not practical, at least for cinemas, says U.K. Cinema Association chief executive Phil Clapp.
On Monday, during a coronavirus briefing, Johnson had suggested the rapid lateral flow tests, in combination with the ongoing vaccination process, could reach “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year,” referring to nightclubs and theaters.
On Tuesday, speaking to the BBC “World at One” news program, Clapp, whose association represents 90% of U.K. cinemas, said that they are not aware of any U.K. cinemas that are exploring rapid testing. “We believe that cinemas offer a materially different environment than nightclubs and music venues, which are the examples cited,” Clapp said. Practically speaking, cinema customers are expected to wait 30 minutes for test results and each test costs around £4 ($5.55), per person Clapp said.
“So, if you’re talking about an audience of maybe 250 people, I think we believe that asking them to wait 30 minutes before seeing a two-hour film is impractical, and also asking them to pay what equates in most cases to a 50% uplift on their ticket price, isn’t really the way forward,” Clapp said.
Cinemas had proven their ability with the safeguards in place, including sanitization, social distancing and face covering, before the lockdown, Clapp said, also pointing out that not a single case of coronavirus in the U.K. had been traced back to cinemas.
Johnson’s words were echoed on Wednesday by U.K. vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi. “We believe that cinemas can operate safely without the need for vaccine passports, or the need for rapid testing as the minister seems to have suggested,” Clapp said. Regarding customers carrying proof of vaccination to enter cinemas, Clapp said that there could be a host of people who have not been vaccinated due to a number of reasons and denying them entry could leave cinemas open to charges of discrimination.
Clapp, like the rest of the U.K., is waiting for Feb. 22, when Johnson is expected to reveal his roadmap for easing the current lockdown, and hopes that cinemas will begin reopening by April. Clapp is confident that once cinemas reopen, the big films will “drive people back off their sofas, in front of the big screen.”