With some cinemas set to re-open in early July, The Bigger Picture spoke to Chris Swney, General Manager of Archlight Cinema, about the considerations and precautions his venue is taking to ensure customer safety.
With consumer concerns about the risk to vulnerable patrons, social distancing and extensive cleaning, Chris details Archlight’s plans for the foreseeable future:
“Archlight Cinema is located in Circus West Village in the Battersea Power Station re-development. We were just three days from celebrating our very first birthday before the lockdown measures were put in place. So, along with re-connecting and continuing to build our audience, we now have the set task, like all cinemas across the world, to adapt our current operations in the sake of safety for both the public and for our dedicated team of staff.
Although it will be obvious to all, none of these measures outlined below are guaranteed and as the situation continues to be so fluid in regard to the potential if, when and how of reopening – any of the below may well change before the day comes.
The most significant challenge for us will be that of social distancing.
Space and snacks
As of writing, it seems that the “two metre rule” will be in effect when cinemas reopen. We will aim to reduce the customer/staff contact experience as much as possible – this is a shame for us, as Archlight staff pride ourselves on our dedicated customer service. We will be pushing to an even more pre-ordered scenario – 90% of our tickets are purchased online anyway, and we will now include all food and beverages to this, by adding these to our website. (Again this is all dependant on whether one is able to eat in cinemas?) It is also likely that our current range of products in our sweet shop will decrease (we currently offer 11 different types of wine, this will go down to two or three, and nothing by the glass), to allow for a more streamlined, efficient service for online purchasing.
Thankfully, those who frequent Archlight will be familiar with our baskets that are located in our sweet shop. On arrival you can load up on your half-bottle of Pinot Noir, bag of Sweet and Salt popcorn and a block of Tony’s chocolate and take the goodies to your dedicated seat and table. These baskets will now be used for our pre-orders and placed ready on the tables in the cinema before the customer arrives – all of which already purchased online. This will effectively eliminate most transactions and contact with staff members while still allowing us to provide a dedicated service to our customers.
In order to achieve this and allow this process to be practical and also safe for our staff, we will be reducing screening times as well, and likely that we will only screen one film at a time (that also is due to lack of product that is being released over the coming months). As we are a three screen site, we will aim (and be able) to have significant time between each screenings to allow the pre orders to be prepared and placed in the cinemas, and also to accommodate the increased cleaning that we will be required to undertake after each screening.
At a reduced capacity, with reduced F&B offerings and less films to screen over the coming weeks – this will, of course prove challenging to operate sustainably.
We plan to utilize the government’s furlough scheme for as long as possible, and will only bring back leadership staff and minimal staffing (whilst still retaining Fire evacuation legalities and also what will be required for increased safety and cleaning measures)
Essentially, our focus for reopening will be to the make the experience as simple and as relaxed as possible for both our customers and our staff, so that our audiences can get back to watching movies how they are supposed to be seen – together.
For more information about the Archlight Cinema, visit www.archlightcinema.co.uk