Northern Ireland's biggest cinema chain to leave every second seat empty due to coronavirus fears
A "seat separation" policy is being introduced by Omniplex, Northern Ireland's biggest cinema chain, in response to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.
As of the afternoon of Wednesday, March 11, there are been 18 confirmed cases of the virus in the country and it is hoped that the introduction of these new health and safety measures will enhance protection and offer assurances that it is still OK to visit their cinemas.
In a statement released on their Facebook page, Omniplex said: "After a thorough risk assessment and analysis of the global cinema market, we will be implementing some new measures including ‘In-Cinema Seat Separation’ (every second seat will be unoccupied), Self-Scanning of Tickets, Increased Cleaning Regimes and Hand Sanitising Stations in every cinema foyer."
At this stage there is no news of any cinema chains in England, Scotland or Wales planning to implement something similar. Over the past week we have seen the new James Bond film No Time to Die moved back several months, while Sony's Peter Rabbit 2 has also been delayed until late-summer. Other blockbusters have moved into these vacated dates, but it remains to be seen how much of the upcoming release schedule will continue to be affected.
Cinemas have so far been closed in Poland, Bulgaira, China, Slovakia, Italy and France, with some restrictions imposed in North American states, while the likes of SXSW, E23 and The London Book Fair have cancelled due to the threat of the virus spreading even further.
Earlier today Cannes organisers said that if the Covid-19 situation worsens they could absorb the financial loss of cancelling the festival for this year. However, Cannes president, Pierre Lescure, told French publication Le Figaro that “We remain reasonably optimistic in the hope that the peak of the epidemic will be reached at the end of March and that we will breathe a little better in April.” He went on to say, “But we are not oblivious. If not, we will cancel.”