50% Capacity, Face Masks Optional: Guidelines for the Reopening of French Cinemas

© Mathieu Prat

French cinemas have received official guidelines for the reopening of their screens, a process scheduled to begin on June 22.

Among the most noteworthy items in the guidelines are a restricted admissions capacity of 50 percent, social distancing rules inside auditoriums, instructions to control the flow of people between showtimes…but no requirement for patrons to wear face masks.

The guidelines, issued by the country’s national cinema federation (FNCF), come with the caveat that they could be revised based on advice from national health authorities as the situation develops.

What Audiences Can Expect in Their Return to Cinemas

Official protocol recommends keeping exterior doors open as much as possible and ensuring a meter of distance between patrons as much as possible. This means audiences can expect tiered showtimes in order to reduce the need for lines and control the flow of people entering and exiting an auditorium. Social distancing is encouraged for any point of sales touchpoint, including the box office or concessions stand, preferably through a plexiglass shield or visor. Audiences will also be encouraged to buy tickets online, a change that is leading several exhibitors to begin adopting reserved seating in their return to business.  

Face masks are recommended, but not required, for patrons. Exhibitors will instead be encouraged to add hand sanitation stations at their cinema entrance. High-touch surfaces throughout each facility––such as ramps, handrails, and escalators––should be disinfected by theater staff at least twice a day. Specific guidelines for concessions spaces can be found here.

Admission is capped at 50 percent of each auditorium, with a vacant seat surrounding each occupied spot. People in the same party, such as families or couples, however, are permitted to sit together. Showtimes, as previously mentioned, should be tiered so as to not overlap begin and ending times for each session––a measure that will help control the flow of traffic in and out of auditoriums. Air circulation is required to be ensured through “mechanical or any other” means, and restrooms are to be cleaned and ventilated with increased frequency. 

Exhibitors are encouraged to include policy spots in their pre-show where they can remind audiences of the safety measures that have been implemented.

What Employees Can Expect in Their Return to Work

Most sanitary measures employees will be required to follow fall under France’s general protocols that apply to all businesses upon reopening, previously announced on May 9.  

Face masks will be required for all cinema staff members inside an auditorium and throughout the cleaning and sanitation process. Employees will be required to have face masks on hand and use them with any guest whenever social distancing of at least 1 meter cannot be observed, regardless of the presence of a plexiglass screen between staff and customers. Contactless payment will be encouraged wherever possible, with hand-to-hand cash transactions expected to be kept to a minimum. 

Sufficient storage space for concessions should be available in order to ensure minimum risk in the delivery, unpacking, and organization of products. 

Ticket verification by cinema staff should be conducted through a plexiglass screen or a staff member wearing an individual visor. 

3D glasses will go through a disinfection process before each use and stored for an extended period of time before being redistributed. Return containers for 3D glasses will be collected by cinema staff wearing gloves at the end of each showtime. 

Communicating with Staff and Audiences

The FNCF will set up a group to monitor and review the recommended measures, with particular attention paid to their impact on smaller exhibitors. The organization is also providing visual assets, such as signs and posters, meant to clearly communicate these guidelines throughout the theater. Exhibitors will be receiving follow-up communications from the FNCF with step-by-step guides and assistance in how to implement these guidelines throughout the customer journey––from ticket purchase until patrons leave the theater. 

The original version of this article is available on Boxoffice Pro France

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