Cinemas ‘at breaking point’ urge Taoiseach to set reopening date

Operators say they have been left behind as 80% of European cinemas now have timetable

Irish cinemas say they need a reopening date to give them a chance of surviving. Photograph: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Irish cinemas say they need a reopening date to give them a chance of surviving. Photograph: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

 

Irish cinemas have called on the Taoiseach for a reopening date, saying that their industry, which employs 2,000 people, “is at breaking point” and that, to have “any chance of surviving and recovering”, the sector needs to know “without delay” when it can reopen.

Mark Anderson, a director of Omniplex Cinema Group, who has liaised with the department on behalf of the sector, wrote on Friday to Taoiseach Micheál Martin in advance of further announcements on reopenings that are expected next week.

The letter, seen by The Irish Times, says cinemas last month presented the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media with “more compelling evidence from global sources identifying cinema as a safe indoor activity. To date, there is still no evidence of Covid-19 transmission in any cinema setting, worldwide.” He wrote: “Surely the time has come to reopen our cinemas.”

Anderson’s letter follows confusion on April 29th, when initial announcements indicated cinemas would be allowed to reopen from June 7th; that date was later diluted to a vaguer indication that theatres and cinemas could reopen “in June”.

Cinemas in Northern Ireland are set to reopen on Monday, May 24th. Anderson points out that almost 80 per cent of European countries have cinemas-specific reopening dates, “leaving Ireland (Europe’s biggest consumer of cinema experiences) an outlier”.

The letter says the cinema industry set aside “commercial and competitor interests” and united to support each other, communities and public health, and has consistently engaged with Minister for Culture Catherine Martin and the department “in a mutually collegial and respectful manner”, without “draining Government’s time and resources with lobbying and media campaigns”.

“We now look on with frustration as hundreds and thousands flock to indoor stores across the country, and ask why we have been left behind when we are ready and able to provide safe, controlled and socially distanced experiences.”

He urged the Taoiseach to act to avoid “catastrophic damage to our industry and our communities”.

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