In an address to Parliament on Monday, February 22, Prime Minster Boris Johnson laid out a timeline under which cinemas—made to close throughout December and January—may be allowed to reopen.
Johnson’s “road map” for reopening British businesses is laid out in four stages, each a minimum of five weeks apart. Movement from one stage to the next, and the accompanying reopening of swathes of businesses in the U.K., is contingent on four factors: the continued successful deployment of vaccines, that the vaccines reduce hospitalizations and deaths, that infection rates do not lead to a resurgence in hospitalizations, and that “assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed,” per Johnson, by new Covid variations.
The first step of Johnson’s plan, laid out in more detail here, begins March 8. Cinemas begin to come into play with the second phase, starting April 12 at the earliest. On that date—assuming the above four criteria are met—drive-in cinemas in the U.K. will be allowed to reopen, along with other outdoor venues like zoos, beer gardens, and theme parks.
Indoor cinemas in the U.K. will be allowed to reopen their doors—albeit with capacity restrictions—upon the country’s shift to step three, which will take place no earlier than May 17. They are placed in the same tier as indoor dining, hotels, sporting events, and theaters. Social distancing measures must remain in place.
“With appropriate limitations, we will aim to remove all legal limits on social contact” with phase four, starting June 12 at the earliest, said Johnson. A week’s notice will be given before the country moves from one stage to the next.
U.K. cinemas being able to open May 17 puts them ahead of the majority of the summer movie slate as it currently stands, with films such as Free Guy, F9, Cruella, In the Heights, Top Gun: Maverick and more coming out starting in late May and going on into the summer months. Black Widow is currently dated for May 7, before U.K. theaters could conceivably be open, though in a recent earnings call CEO Bob Chapek emphasized Disney’s ongoing “flexibility” with regard to that film’s release strategy.