Pic­ture houses re­open on Wed­nes­day so what can we ex­pect?

The Herald - The Herald Magazine - - Arts -

RUS­SELL LEAD­BET­TER

IT takes a lot to shut­ter the muchloved in­sti­tu­tion that is the Glas­gow Film The­atre. It opened as the Cosmo, a few months be­fore the Sec­ond World War, and it was closed briefly dur­ing the Cly­de­bank Blitz, but oth­er­wise it has re­mained open all that time. Un­til re­cently, that is. Like ev­ery other cin­ema in the UK, the art­house GFT went dark as a re­sult of the pan­demic-in­duced lock­down.

Last week it an­nounced that it would fi­nally re-open, on Mon­day, Au­gust 31. Its loyal cus­tomer base could not be hap­pier. “I think I will take the day off and spend it in the GFT”, wrote one fan on Twit­ter. “I’ve missed you so much”, wrote an­other.

Cin­e­mas across Scot­land will be re­open­ing from July 15 but the GFT is deter­mined to take its time and make sure ev­ery­thing is in place.

In com­mon with ev­ery other cin­ema, whether an in­de­pen­dent or part of a large chain, such as Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, the GFT will re-emerge with strict so­cial-dis­tanc­ing guide­lines in place. Mea­sures al­ready an­nounced by the big chains in­clude stag­gered screen times, so­cial-dis­tanc­ing seat­ing, and hand sani­tis­ers and gels at sta­tions.

The GFT’s screens will have only around 20 per cent ca­pac­ity, so as to per­mit es­sen­tial spac­ing be­tween cus­tomers. This will, at least in the short to medium term, add to the GFT’s prob­lems. Like ev­ery other pic­ture house, it has suf­fered greatly dur­ing the lock­down.

“For the past months we have had no in­come from ticket sales, venue hires or our bar, which col­lec­tively amounts to sixty per cent of our rev­enue”, says Al­li­son Gard­ner, Glas­gow Film CEO, who is pic­tured right.

“Safe­guard­ing jobs has and will re­main a pri­or­ity go­ing for­ward, and we have paid our per­ma­nent staff 100 per cent of their wages dur­ing the clo­sure pe­riod.

“Whilst re-open­ing is a big step in the right di­rec­tion, we are aware that there is a long road ahead un­til the cin­ema is able to op­er­ate at full ca­pac­ity,” she added.

“As a not-for-profit ed­u­ca­tional char­ity, all of our in­come is rein­vested into our pro­gram­ming and ac­cess ini­tia­tives to cre­ate Cin­ema For All. This will be per­haps the big­gest chal­lenge we have faced as an or­gan­i­sa­tion, but it is one we in­tend to tackle with pas­sion and de­ter­mi­na­tion, and we know that our loyal au­di­ence will con­tinue to sup­port us.”

It helps, in a way, that sum­mer is tra­di­tion­ally a quiet pe­riod for the GFT. This gives it time to co-or­di­nate with other in­de­pen­dents and with dis­trib­u­tors to re-open at the end of next month.

had been fur­loughed. So it is great to get a date and then work to­wards it”.

The re­duced-ca­pac­ity as­pect is some­thing that cus­tomers will be­come ac­cus­tomed to; Al­li­son be­lieves that most are al­ready used to the “new nor­mal” in terms of so­cial dis­tanc­ing, and the plans that es­tab­lish­ments like the GFT have to put in place.

“As things be­gin to re­open, such as beer gar­dens, peo­ple are get­ting into the swing of the cor­rect pro­ce­dures and by the time we re-open on Au­gust 31 peo­ple will have be­come much more at­tuned to that sort of be­hav­iour”.

AN easy so­lu­tion, in view of the fact that there will be fewer cus­tomers and thus less in­come, would be to in­crease the num­ber of screen­ings of a spe­cific film. But things are not as straight­for­ward as that.

“Pos­si­bly not,” Al­li­son says when asked about ex­tra screen­ings, “be­cause what we are keen on are the clean­ing times in­be­tween screen­ings. We have to build in more clean­ing time while mak­ing sure that cus­tomers exit and en­ter safely, and avoid any bot­tle­necks.

“So there will prob­a­bly be fewer screen­ings, be­cause there’s less ca­pac­ity ini­tially. But I’ll be keen to see how it works and I’ll be here on the open­ing Mon­day, to keep an eye on things”.

The safety and com­fort of staff, vol­un­teers and au­di­ence are of para­mount im­por­tance in the plan­ning, she added. “We’re work­ing with our staff to de­vise a safe op­er­at­ing plan in ac­cor­dance with the guid­ance pro­vided by the UK Cin­ema As­so­ci­a­tion. Our safe op­er­at­ing plan mea­sures will be shared with au­di­ences to re­as­sure them of the ac­tions we are tak­ing”.

She is un­der no il­lu­sions that things will be dif­fi­cult for the GFT. “But we are in a very good po­si­tion, be­cause we have been here since 1939. This is the long­est pe­riod we have ever been closed – we were, I think, closed for a week be­cause of the Cly­de­bank bomb­ings.

“But we are very lucky in that we have a su­per-loyal au­di­ence. That has taken a lot of work over the years by the team. That loy­alty, the fact that peo­ple know we are a not-for-profit char­ity, and put the money back into our com­mu­nity, and all the work we do around equal­ity, di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion – all of that stands in our favour.

“I hope that more peo­ple will re­alise how great ‘lo­cal’ stuff is af­ter this. The GFT is Glas­gow’s neigh­bour­hood cin­ema, af­ter all.”

The cin­ema could also ben­e­fit from the VAT cut and a £97 mil­lion sup­port pack­age in­tended to pro­tect Scot­tish cul­tural venues from clo­sure: it’s the coun­try’s share of a £1.57bn fund set up by the UK Govern­ment. The Scot­tish Govern­ment has an­nounced a sep­a­rate £10m fund for arts venues which can­not yet re­open. To help se­cure its fu­ture over “this next cru­cial pe­riod”, the GFT is ask­ing cus­tomers to do­nate £20, or

Clock­wise from left: GFT boss Al­li­son Gard­ner; The Great­est Show­man; and Avatar. Both movies were pop­u­lar choices among film fans to re­turn to the big screen

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