Cinemas: Keeping Proactive During Lockdown

31 March 2020

By Jason SOUTHERN, AURES UK – Sales Manager

The disruption to business resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic is completely unprecedented.

In the space of just a couple of weeks, the UK has accelerated from a cautious state of business-as-usual to wide scale lockdown, with people being told to stay in their homes, movement being restricted for all but essential requirements and, of course, businesses in their droves shutting their doors.

It is very much a case of needs must and pulling together to do the right thing to stop the spread of Covid-19. It leaves many businesses in an extremely difficult position. While some sectors, such as retail, have the option of shifting their operations online.

However, cinema operators, for example, have been told to shut their doors for the time being. It is not just that the revenue tap has been turned off for now – close to 18,000 people work in UK cinemas, and employers will feel their responsibility to staff keenly as the crisis goes on.

Companies will, of course, soon start to receive government funding to help pay their staff up to 80% of their wages while they are unable to trade. In the meantime, it is a case of either suspending wages or laying off staff to cut costs (not great from a PR/moral perspective – see Wetherspoons) or accepting that your workforce will have to sit idle for the coming weeks.

Or will they?

Getting prepared

Cinemas may not be able to open their doors to the public in the coming weeks. But, providing that appropriate hygiene and distancing protocols are put in place (e.g. regular thorough cleaning and disinfecting, workers not coming within two metres of each other as per government guidelines), there are reasons for cinema operators to have at least some staff on site over the coming weeks, and using the time available productively to prepare for when this is all over.

There is plenty that can be done. How long have you been saying you would like the opportunity to give all of your machinery and equipment – projectors and audio equipment, kiosks and EPOS terminals, vending and games machines – a proper service all in one go, so you have your servicing regime coordinated from the same starting point going forward.

Maintenance is another area to look at. If you have things scheduled in for three or six months time, bring it forward and get it done now. Look at preventative maintenance, too – while you are servicing all of your equipment, you might as well take a close look at all fixtures and fittings. Anywhere there is something looking a little worn or less-than-pristine, put it right, saving you a job further down the line when it deteriorates further.

On that front, this is also a great opportunity to consider larger scale refurbishments. How is the decor looking? Is there a way you could reorganise the layout of your lobby to make it more appealing to customers? Have you been mulling over upgrading some of the chairs in your auditorium for a while? What about your technology – could this be time to invest in that new EPOS system, or upgrade your projectors, or role out more self-service options?

The overall message is this – yes, cinemas, like all leisure operators, are in a very difficult position at the moment. But when this is all over, people will be eager to get out and about, there will be a mood of release and excitement that will likely spark a flood of footfall to leisure destinations again. Cinemas have the time to make sure they are ready and raring to go when that happens, so they can maximise the opportunity by providing the best experience possible.