Film fans tonight flocked to early screenings of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Tenet – as some cinema chains reported a 75 per cent boost in sales for the first big release since lockdown.
Venues which closed in March following the coronavirus outbreak were allowed to reopen again at the start of July but many have taken extra time before welcoming back customers.
Sci-fi thriller Tenet is widely regarded as the biggest post-pandemic blockbuster, with thousands of viewers expected to head to screenings across Britain this week alone.
Eager film fans were tonight greeted by staff wearing face coverings and a one-way system to the tills as they arrived to experience post-lockdown cinema.
Guests carried face masks and hand sanitiser alongside their usual popcorn and drinks as they waited to watch the film – starring Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki – at a Vue cinema in Bristol tonight.
The film is being shown at regular intervals at the venue, with enhanced cleaning taking place inside the screens between viewings.
People take their seats, while maintaining social distancing, for the opening day of the film Tenet
Speaking outside the cinema, some excited film fans explained they had returned to Vue for Tenet – while others said they just wanted to get out of the house after months in lockdown.
Josh Browning, 28, said he was drawn in by the highly anticipated film – and wasn’t put off by the need to wear a face mask inside the venue.
‘I went to the cinema a lot before lockdown – but I don’t think I would be here if it wasn’t for Tenet,’ he said. ‘The film is definitely a big draw for me.
‘I’m not too bothered about wearing a mask. It’s not too bad – it is what it is. But do you have to take it off to eat your popcorn?’
Customers at Vue are asked to wear face masks unless they are eating or drinking inside the screenings, and seating has been distanced in an attempt to avoid outbreaks of Covid-19.
Thomas Jones, 28, from Gloucester, added: ‘I’m not sure so about the film – I’m just here to see my friends. I don’t mind wearing a mask – if it’s going to help.’
But others said they thought wearing a mask inside the screening was ‘silly.’
Aneta Stack, 42, from Bristol said: ‘I’ve got no problem about going back to the cinema – I just want to go back and see how it is.
‘I would go to the cinema quite often before lockdown – about once or twice a month. I think wearing a mask is silly. I could go on – but I won’t.’
Her friend Anna Jurczak, 38, explained she was visiting the cinema for the experience – not specifically to see Nolan’s latest blockbuster.
Film fans queued up in London’s Leicester Square today to see the sci-fi thriller starring Robert Pattinson and Kenneth Branagh
The film focuses on the story of a secret agent who embarks on a dangerous, time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War III
‘I don’t think I would have chosen it if it wasn’t for lockdown,’ she said. ‘I was just looking for any movie – that was the only option for me. I would have loved more choice.
‘I feel fine about coming back [to the cinema]. I’m not afraid of anything – I feel normal. Although I would prefer not to wear the mask, to be honest.’
Sally Hayman, 57, travelled from Chepstow, Wales to watch the film with her daughter.
‘I’m glad to be back,’ she said. ‘I’ve got no idea about social distancing inside, but the mask doesn’t bother me. The cinema seems more empty – I’m assuming we will be distancing.’
Tenet tells the story of a secret agent who embarks on a dangerous, time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War III.
It has clearly already caught the imagination of many, with Showcase Cinemas reporting a 75 per cent rise in ticket sales over the weekend.
Similarly, Vue opened all its cinemas across the UK in anticipation of the film’s release.
A smattering of film buffs turned out for an early showing today in London’s Leicester Square, including retired animator Romano Modiano.
‘I went to see “Pinocchio” a couple of days ago, I think I was the only one in the cinema. I was glad to have a seat but it was depressing not to have anyone around,’ he said.
‘I am worried. I love the big screen, why should it die?’
Tessa Street, general manager of the Odeon Luxe cinema in Leicester Square, said 61 people had booked for the first screening, and ticket sales looked promising across the country in the coming days.
‘We’re always excited for a Christopher Nolan film, because they’re fantastic,’ she said, describing it as ‘the perfect film’ to bring back audiences, as cinemas gradually reopen.
‘It’s really fantastic to bring a film to the big screen that just really demonstrates what cinema is all about. It’s a film that needs to be seen on the big screen.’
For many making their first trip to the pictures in months, it is likely to be a different, and unusual experience.
Cinema bosses have introduced a range of measures to ensure venues remain Covid-secure.
These include leaving seats empty in each screen and staggered start times, alongside fewer screenings to reduce the number of people in the lobby at any one time.
Customers wearing face coverings buy popcorn in anticipation of watching the much-trumpeted blockbuster
An employee wearing a face covering positions a sign declaring the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square cinema open for business
Venues which were told to close in March following the coronavirus outbreak were allowed to reopen again at the start of July but many have taken extra time before welcoming back customers
Furthermore, staff will wear face coverings and hand sanitising stations have been placed throughout venues.
After each screening, employees conduct a thorough cleaning regime, which includes an anti-viral fogging machine that eliminates airborne viruses, with air-purifying systems also installed.
Vue’s Head of Screen Content, Eduardo Leal, said: ‘We’re thrilled that finally all our venues are now open to the public.
‘We can’t wait to bring the epic tales such as Tenet to the big screen as well as a variety of classic favourites, all with ultimate seat, screen and sound.’
Mark Barlow, General Manager for Showcase Cinemas UK, added: ‘Between Friday evening and Monday morning we saw a 75% increase in ticket sales for Tenet.
‘We believe the upsurge in sales is due to a number of factors, including more awareness of the film due to increased marketing and very positive early reviews, as well as the UK cinema industry’s ‘Love Cinema’ campaign.
‘We are delighted at the response to the film from Showcase cinema-goers here in the UK, particularly over the weekend, giving rise to the increase in ticket sales, proving that there is no better place to immerse yourself in a film than on the big screen.
‘Despite lockdown reducing capacity at our cinemas, we’re expecting strong attendances for the film throughout the rest of August, into September and beyond.’
After several postponements, Tenet, which ran to a £150 million budget, is the first of its kind to dare a release during the pandemic.
In contrast, Disney canned its plan for a big-screen release of ‘Mulan’, preferring instead to run it on digital platforms.
Customers queue up to buy refreshments before taking their seats to watch Tenet this afternoon
Sci-fi thriller Tenet is widely regarded as the biggest post-pandemic blockbuster and is expected to attract thousands of viewers this week alone
In a video on social media, Tom Cruise stands in front of a Tenet film poster in London and says: ‘Here we are… back to the movies!’
The latest James Bond film ‘No Time to Die’, which was due for release in April, was also postponed and will now go into cinemas in November.
But Warner Bros have faith in Nolan’s ability to pull in the crowds – and with good reason.
His rebooting of the ‘Batman’ films in the shape of the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy has grossed more than £3 billion.
His last film ‘Dunkirk’, which won three Oscars and had five other nominations, including one for Nolan, cost £75m and has grossed nearly £400m.
Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise yesterday shared a video of him in a taxi having snuck into the busy BFI IMAX cinema to watch the new film.
The clip shows him pulling up to a venue, where he poses in front of the Tenet film poster, he says: ‘Here we are… back to the movies!’
The Hollywood star is then seen sitting in his seat while wearing his mask surrounded by other cinema-goers.
After watching a special screening, a clapping Tom stands up and says: ‘Great to be back in a movie theatre everybody. I loved it!’
He cryptically captioned the video with: ‘Big movie. Big screen. Loved it.’