Odeon’s flagship cinema prepares to reopen with socially distanced seating

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor

Guests at one of London’s most famous cinemas will watch films in socially distanced seating and experience staggered start times.

Film fans at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square will likely be greeted by staff in protective equipment, many of whom are behind screens, when the doors re-open on July 13.

Tessa Street, general manager of Odeon Leicester Square and board director for The Heart of London Business Alliance, said staff will endeavour to still give visitors a “magical” experience, even under unusual circumstances.

Cinemas in England will be allowed to open from July 4 after the doors closed and screens went dark in March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Street told the PA news agency: “We have obviously been working on plans since we locked down in terms of what that is going to look like and preparing for that.

“We will be putting into place everything we need to do to ensure everyone on our team and our guests who come to visit us are safe, with cleaning and sanitising procedures.

“We are also looking at all sorts of protective equipment, in terms of screens for our team who are serving, personal protective equipment, and we are particularly looking, in terms of social distancing and staggering, how we ensure the occupancy levels are correct in the auditorium.

“Luckily we have lots of luxe recliner seats, so they are nice and spacious anyway so that helps us with that.

Cinemas closed in March amid the coronavirus pandemic (John Walton/PA)

“Also looking at our film start times more than we would normally, so that we don’t have too big queues and too many films going on at the same times, and queues at our food and beverage counters, looking at how we can manage guest flow to make sure the experience is still the magical one that we want it to be even under these unusual circumstances.”

Asked if guests would be required to wear masks, as travellers on public transport are, she said: “We are following very carefully Government guidance at the moment, we will continue to do that.

“At the moment that is optional but if that changes and we get further guidance, we will implement whatever guidance scientists recommend.”

Street said options are also being explored surrounding public health messaging, including the Government announcements shown on television.

She said: “We are looking at all of our channels, in terms of signage and whether we can use our screens as well as our website.

“Those details are still being finalised but we will certainly have plenty of messaging to assist with our guests, but the most important element for us is our team training and ensuring that we have a team on site that are really confident on what the expectations are and can still welcome guests with a warm smile, whether it’s behind a visor or a mask or whether that not be.

“And really to give guests confidence about the experience we are offering, and show that we are a safe cinema and guests can be confident to return to us.”