Uckfield Picture House owner Kevin Markwick is hoping to reopen the cinema on Friday, July 31.
He has previously announced that the restaurant will reopen on Wednesday, July 22, but choosing an opening date for the cinema has been more tricky, and even when making an announcement in an audio diary aired on the BBC Radio 4 Film Programme on Thursday Kevin was wary.
He finished by saying he thought he was going to say the cinema would open on July 31. “You have heard it here first. We are going to open on July 31 … unless we don’t.”
One of the reasons for Kevin’s dilemma is the release date for two films which he wants to show, Disney’s Mulan, and the spy film Tenet.
Mulan was originally due to be released in March but the date has been postponed repeatedly because of the Coronavirus pandemic. The latest date given is August 19.
Tenet was initially expected to arrived in cinemas on July 17, then postponed until July 31. Now it is due to show from August 12.
Kevin says he is not even confident of those two dates and he is concerned about new spikes in the Coronavirus. The last thing he wants to do is open the cinema only to close it again.
Other cinemas opened on July 4 but Kevin thought that was too early. They have been showing old films and while Kevin thinks that would work for two weeks he doesn’t think there would be enough support for six to eight weeks of them.
He is working on the basis of opening with 25% of usual capacity but fears even that figure could be optimistic.
Kevin recorded his audio diary in one of his empty cinemas saying they were on zero income after the best start to the year they had ever had.
Star Wars was ending when lockdown began, 1917 had been huge for the Picture House and Military Wives had just started.
“It is very upsetting to wander around the empty cinema which is normally echoing with people enjoying themselves. This is a busy cinema, busy all day, every day. Suddenly everything has been taken away.”
He said there was a very high degree of uncertainty in the cinema industry generally, trying to second guess what people want to see
His father bought the cinema in 1965 and Kevin had been running it since he died in 1994. “I feel the weight of it a bit. I don’t want to be the one who presides over its eventual demise.”
He reflected on the massive refurbishment undertaken five years ago, buying the restaurant across the road, and working to integrate the two businesses, building them up and designing a complete night out.
Now he had the two businesses most affected by the pandemic. They had gone from a good income to no income whatsoever. That was a shock and he was not sure when it would come back.
The Picture House had been reaching out to its customers and members and it seemed people did want to come back, the issue now was making the businesses financially viable.
• The Picture House Restaurant opens on Wednesday, July 22, and tables must be booked in advance online.
It will be open from 4pm on weekdays, and from noon Friday to Sunday. The final table time will be 8.30pm.
A maximum of eight people from two households will be allowed with table slots of 90 minutes to enable thorough cleaning between bookings.
A pre-order full takeaway menu will be available from 5pm until 8.30pm.
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