Can I go to the cinema? What the tier system means for film-lovers

Alex Diggins
·3-min read
Will you cinemas be able to open? It all depends on the tier  -  Shutterstock
Will you cinemas be able to open? It all depends on the tier - Shutterstock

Following Boris Johnson's announcement on December 30, most areas of England will enter Tier 4, the highest level of restrictions. The majority of the remaining areas will be in Tier 3.

It's more bad news for Marvel’s Wonder Woman 1984, one of the few big studio releases this winter. So, where will punters be able to watch it, and who will they be able to go with? 

Tier 1

The "rule of six" is still in force across all tiers. This means that you will only be able to meet up to five others in any indoor or outdoor setting. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls must also close at 11pm. But, crucially, screenings which start before 10pm will be allowed to conclude. So plans for a midnight Wonder Woman watch party, or a birthday Die Hard screening are, sadly, off the cards. 

There are capacity limits for all indoor and outdoor events, too. Cinemas will only be able to open with 50 per cent capacity or 1,000 people indoors - whichever is lower. In actuality, though, given the dearth of new releases, attracting those numbers may well be a distance dream for many cinema owners. 

Film lovers are encouraged not to travel between tiers, except for purposes of work, education, caring responsibilities or medical treatment. If you live in a higher-tier area, then tough luck: you won’t be able to travel to a lower-tier one to catch a film. Expect Netflix’s share price to continue to rise. 

Tier 2 

The same restrictions as tier 1 apply - but cranked up a notch. ‘Rule of six’ is in place. But you will not be able to socialise with anyone you don’t live with or are in a support bubble with, in any indoor setting. So date nights are still on. Nights out with friends aren’t. Masks must be worn.

Wonder Woman 1984 is released 16 December -  Clay Enos
Wonder Woman 1984 is released 16 December - Clay Enos

Tier 3 

The second highest tier of restrictions in England. It is reserved for areas with very high, or rapidly rising areas of infection. The example of Liverpool, which has moved from tier 3 to tier 2, provides some hope that areas might be able to shrug off the most draconian policies if their infection rates start to fall. 

In this tier, all indoor entertainment venues must close. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls will go dark. There is a slim chance for cinephiles, though: while large outdoor performances are banned, drive-ins are the exception. Grease fans had better shape up. 

You are also discouraged from staying ‘unnecessary’ trips outside of your tier area, including overnight trips. In addition, as with tier two, you bring your tier restrictions with you. So illicit breaching of county lines to get your film fix is a no-no. 

Questions remain about the Christmas break period, between 23 and 27 December, when three households will be able to form a ‘Christmas’ bubble. But they won’t be able to go to the cinema - probably. 

Tier 4

Under Tier 4 restrictions, non-essential shops must close and people must stay at home or in their own garden at all times, apart for reasonable excuses such as work, essential shopping or education. 

Therefore, under Tier 4 restrictions, all entertainment venues must close, including museums, cinemas and drive-thru events.