Cinemas seek clarity on contradictory dates for reopening

Government removes reopening date online as TDs post about June 7th on social media

After the Taoiseach’s address, the Government’s Merrion Street website and social media stated cinemas would be allowed to reopen from June 7th. Photograph: iStock

After the Taoiseach’s address, the Government’s Merrion Street website and social media stated cinemas would be allowed to reopen from June 7th. Photograph: iStock

 

Irish cinema owners have expressed anger about confusion over when they will be able to reopen, after a date of June 7th was “listed and then delisted” on Thursday.

The confusion extended to prominent social media posts from some Fianna Fáil politicians’ accounts, touting a June 7th reopening.

That a reopening date was circulated and then withdrawn is “completely unacceptable”, said Mark Anderson, a director of the Omniplex Cinema Group, who wrote to the Minister and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media on Friday afternoon, looking for clarity on the issue.

Mr Anderson, who along with other representatives of the sector has been liaising with the department for several months on drawing up safety protocols for cinemas, said he is still seeking “to understand from the Minister how that transpired, and what’s going on in the department that led to this”.

He said the cinema business did not know if there had been a “human error”, or something else, such as new information coming to light.

“I’m at the brunt of angry managers, staff, suppliers in the industry, who want to know what is happening,” said Mr Anderson.

At around 6.35pm on Thursday, after the Taoiseach’s address, the Government’s Merrion Street website and social media stated cinemas would be allowed to reopen from June 7th, subject to the public health situation at the time.

One of the social media posts outlining a June 7th reopening date for cinemas, by TD Jim O’Callaghan
One of the social media posts outlining a June 7th reopening date for cinemas, by TD Jim O’Callaghan

Some time later – Mr Anderson estimated around 6.54pm – the notices disappeared , and cinema was relegated to “Next Steps” for June, without a specific reopening date.

The Taoiseach’s speech made no mention of cinemas, and at a later press conference Minister for Arts Catherine Martin said she was “delighted to confirm that we are looking at the safe reopening of cinemas and theatres in June”.

Mr Anderson said during that 20 minutes when the sector believed it was to reopen on June 7th, the news flew around. “I made 15 or 20 calls, to colleagues, managers, to start preparing, tell staff, that cinemas were reopening.”

The potential for confusion increased after 9pm on Thursday, when a number of Fianna Fail politicians, including TDs Jim O’Callaghan, Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, John McGuinness and Paul McAuliffe, and Cllr Michael Sheehan (Wexford) posted messages on Facebook announcing the June 7th reopening. Most of the posts were a specifically designed FF-branded promotion, with cinema seating imagery, announcing “June 7th, cinemas to reopen”.

As of 5pm on Friday those posts were still in place, Mr Anderson said, pointing out large numbers of likes and comments under some of the posts.

The public are keen to see films whose releases have been backing up, he said, and news of the June 7th reopening had been confusing for the public as well as for staff.

When asked if there was an update on when cinemas and theatres will be allowed to reopen, or what dates were being considered, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media said: “As per yesterday’s announcement, work is continuing on a number of issues in preparation for the coming months, including preparation for the safe reopening of cinemas and theatres in June subject to public health advice.”