Work restarts on the Chiswick Cinema site

Work has started again on the Chiswick Cinema site, which has been shut down for over a month. Builders from Conemar started back at the site earlier this week.

“The Government is beginning to encourage construction again” says Lyn Goleby, the entrepreneur behind the Chiswick Cinema, “and the workers on our site will be working in a socially distanced way.”

What are her thoughts on when the cinema will now open and how the movie-going landscape has changed as a result of the Coronavirus? She spoke to The Chiswick Calendar.

Image above: Lyn Goleby

Sky News is reporting today that when cinemas reopen, Odeon cinemas will not be showing Universal films. The reason? Universal released Trolls World Tour direct to on demand services, since the cinemas are shut.

“The row is over blown by the media” Lyn tells me. “It’s more likely that Cineworld will only show Universal films if they agree to abide by the 17 week window, allowing films to be shown in cinemas first”.

Having a film available only in the cinema makes it more special, the consumer feels they’re privy to something which is not universally available; they’re seeing it first and it gives going out watch a film on a big screen a sense of occasion. But the row is symptomatic of the concern in the film industry about how the experience of the Coronavirus lockdown, with the public consuming all their films at home, will affect the cinema landscape once the lockdown is eased. Will people want to go and sit in an enclosed space, next to strangers? Some cinemas are considering selling tickets just for alternate seats, but it depends on their capacity, says Lyn. For some that is just not viable.

“It’s very difficult in low capacity cinemas with fewer seats. It will probably be easier for multiplexes with a lot of screens and spare seats, and harder on independents”.

Images above: Mark Brown, project manager; Cinema site as it was in November 2019

At the moment it hasn’t affected her thinking on how the public’s experience at Chiswick Cinema will be.

“We’ll see what the landscape looks like towards the end of this year, whether there will be an immediate bounce back or whether people will react with fear and caution. A big bit of me says people are impatient to get back. There’s been too much fear spread by the media, with the emphasis always on the death toll”.

Her only concession to the Coronavirus so far has been to plan for automated ticket machines.

“We had them in the plan originally, but then I decided against them. preferring personal customer service. Now I think I will probably put them back in”.

“We won’t be opening in September”

Where she has been forced to compromise is on the date the cinema will be ready. Not only has their been no work on the site for over a month, but supply chains in the building industry have been disrupted.

“We won’t be opening in September” she says. “Inevitably there will be a delay”. They had the steels and fixings on site already, before everything was shut down but they are waiting for a revised schedule from Conemar, who are in turn talking to their suppliers.

But at least they’re back at work and the show is on the road again.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Cinema update, November 2019

See also: Perspex screens go up in Snappy Snaps