Will mandatory face coverings in England bring audiences back to the cinema?

Tom Beasley
People wear protective masks as they wait for the screening of a movie in Paris, Monday, June 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Visitors to English cinemas will have to wear face coverings from 8 August, according to new government guidance — but will it affect whether audiences flock back?

Boris Johnson announced this afternoon that it will be a legal requirement to wear a mask in various “indoor settings where you are likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet”.

This includes museums, art galleries and places of worship — as well as cinemas.

Read more: 2020 film releases still coming to the UK

Face coverings had not previously been recommended at cinemas, with no government rules imposed and the UK Cinema Association guidance suggesting it should be left to customers to choose.

It has not been explained how this new rule — which will be enforceable by law — will affect the sale of food and drink in multiplexes.

Movie theatres in England have been able to open since 4 July under lockdown rules, but Cineworld and Picturehouse only opened their doors on Friday.

Odeon and Showcase have been staggering their return, while Vue announced its reopening would be delayed further until 7 August.

A sign reading "We'll Be Back" is seen on the Prince Charles cinema near Leicester Square on March 20, 2020. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The prime minister’s announcement has sparked debate on social media, with the Cineworld Action Group — made up of employees at the chain — among those welcoming the news.

Read more: The classic films UK cinemas can open with

Others, however, were more sceptical about the effect this will have on the cinema experience.

Several new releases have arrived this weekend, including Eva Green sci-fi Proxima, Second World War romance Summerland and the Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged.

Crowe told Yahoo Movies UK this week that he believes audiences are craving the “feeling of normalcy” that comes with watching a film on the big screen.

Read more: Disney analyst warns US cinemas could be closed until 2021

Some smaller releases are heading to cinemas in the next few weeks, with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet due to be the first major blockbuster out of the gate on 26 August.

Two days later, Disney’s long-delayed X-Men spin-off The New Mutants is due to finally make its appearance on the big screen in the UK.