Friday 27 November, 2020

IMAX reopens next week, to practice 'new normal' measures

IMAX is making some final preparations before resuming operations after being closed for nearly three months due to COVID-19.

While competitors have already reopened their doors, IMAX has decided to wait an additional week to welcome back its patrons.

Cinemas and theatres were permitted to restart business from June 22 as Government continues to relax COVID-19 restrictions brought into effect in March.

CinemaOne Limited (IMAX operator) CEO Ingrid Jahra told Loop News that patrons can expect a refreshed look and full compliance with COVID-19 guidelines for reopening set out by the Ministry of Health.

She said while mostly superficial changes have been made, total sanitisation of the facilities, including a thorough cleaning of the air conditioning system has been done.

Focus is also being placed on ensuring that all high-touch surfaces are sanitised.

Temperature checks will be done on staff but not patrons, and any member of staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms will be sent home.

Training of staff is being carried out to ensure they adhere to the guidelines and can give gentle reminders to patrons to do the same. An increased complement of staff will be on hand to clean more frequently between movies.

In terms of some of the changes patrons can expect when IMAX reopens its doors on July 2, Jahra said the wearing of masks will be required and modified seating arrangements will be in effect.

She said while patrons will have to wear masks on entry, they won’t be expected to sit with masks on for duration of a movie because it will prevent them from eating and drinking.

These concerns, she said, have been shared with the Chief Medical Officer.

“Our (COVID-19) numbers give me comfort. I feel a level of comfort that it’s (positive cases) coming from outside.

Going out to the cinema or theatre is no more dangerous than going to the grocery.”

She added: “We want to enjoy our environment, but as safely as possible because we all have to be responsible.”

Staff will be stationed at strategic areas to remind patrons to sanitise. Markers will be in place to ensure customers stay six feet apart.

Plexiglas will be installed at the front in all areas where patrons have to interact with staff.

Jahra took note of concerns by moviegoers that there won’t be any new titles.

She said the reality is that there will be shorter operating hours and fewer movies as reduced occupancy is to be expected in light of physical distancing.

Asked why people should put down the remote, turn off Netflix and come out to IMAX, she explained that at its core, it’s more than just getting out of the house and all about the movie-going experience.

“Everybody has a kitchen but everyone still likes to come out to see a movie and have a shared experience. Popping corn at home isn’t the same as having popcorn with us.”

“We can offer a more personal experience,” she said.

Describing movies like perishable goods with a short shelf life, Jahra said the challenge will be to fill the schedule with titles that will bring moviegoers to the theatre in the absence of new releases.

“We will start with library titles. We want to get people back out to see their favourites on the big screen.”

She said this gap in new offerings created a unique opportunity for local content producers and filmmakers.

“Maybe this is the time for local content producers and filmmakers to come to us. It’s the time for them to pivot and take up the opportunity.”

However, she said all of that will be determined on throughput with next two weeks.

Jahra said IMAX is hoping to offer psychological thriller Unhinged (Rated R) and action/comedy My Spy (rated PG 13) early in July.

She noted that the new normal will take some getting used to but appealed to patrons to bear with them as they get things right.

“It will not be perfect, it will take time for it to become a habit. Let’s follow the rules and let’s all be responsible.”

Giving a brief update on the opening of its South branch, Jahra said the scheduled completion of construction was set back by COVID-19.

She said construction at the end of May and work is continuing apace.

While there is no scheduled date for completion as of now, Jahra is hopeful that IMAX will soon be able to open its doors in South Trinidad.

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