A couple of weeks back, we got an invitation to visit the ODEON at The Trafford Centre in Manchester. It would be our first trip to the cinema since the start of the coronavirus pandemic so, with that in mind, we were intrigued to see which measures had been put in place since they were given the green light by the government to open up to the public in July.
With our face masks on, we took the escalators up to the foyer - which was eerily empty without a single member of staff behind the desks usually used for selling tickets. ODEON encourage visitors to book online so they can enjoy a contactless experience, but there is the option to book your tickets at the venue on one of the staff-free machines. Film times are staggered in this case, so that queuing time is reduced.
As you reach the entrance to the main building - which boasts a whopping 20 screens - staff members (in PPE) will advise you on how to proceed throughout your stay. There are stations to sanitise your hands up front; and they're placed around the cinema so that you can return and refresh personal hygiene whenever you like.
Social distancing is in full force, with stickers on the ground so that you can remain safely apart from those not in your group. Those working have been fully trained in the measures that will give all those returning to the cinema the safest experience possible; aside from the fact everybody's wearing masks, it's just like your typical day out!
You can still buy snacks and drinks from the counter, where you'll also be asked to choose where you'd like to sit. There must be at least two seats between you and any other groups of visitors on the same row. Once you're seated, you're free to sit back, relax and enjoy the movie - just like the 'good old days'!
At the end of the movie, visitors are asked to remain in their seats so that a member of staff can stagger your exit. Unfortunately, some people seem to believe they are above those rules, and run forward as soon as the credits start rolling. It's like when you're on a plane and the cabin crew tell you to remain seated with your belt fastened, but as soon as you land you hear hundreds of clicks as people ignore the very simple instruction. Just do as you're told! It's for everybody's benefit. Rant over...
You'll be asked to take all of your rubbish away from your seat with you, so you can put it in a bin or a bag held by a staff member at the door to your screen.
After visiting ODEON, it's very clear that everybody behind-the-scenes and working front of house are taking the pandemic with the level of seriousness it demands. Their main priority throughout your stay is to keep you safe and ensure you have a good time. I'll happily be going back knowing that my health is at the forefront of their mind.
Meanwhile, Cinema First are hoping to help everybody fall in love with the big screen all over again, with the launch of their new campaign #LoveCinema.
Empire Design have created a stunning cinematic montage which has become the beating heart of the campaign, celebrating some of the most memorable stories that have captured our imaginations, moved us to tears and made us crack up laughing.
Iain Jacob, Cinema First Chair explained: “The #LoveCinema campaign has been launched to encourage audiences to return to the cinema to fall in love all over again with the unparalleled experience that only the big screen can deliver. The global pandemic has had a colossal impact on the film industry, presenting cinemas across the UK with unprecedented challenges. As an industry that employs over 20,000 dedicated people, of which 40% of are under the age of 30, they need our support. Cinemas are ready to welcome audiences back, and we are calling on the great British film-loving public to escape back to the cinema and enjoy a safer big screen experience."
Over 50 films are included in the montage; see how many you can spot by checking it out below: