June 16, 2020 / 1:30 PM / 20 days ago

Cineworld plans to resume screenings in UK, U.S. next month

FILE PHOTO: General view of an empty cinema foyer at Cineworld in Hemel Hempstead as the number of coronavirus cases grow around the world, in Hemel Hempstead, Britain, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo

(Reuters) - Cineworld is aiming to open most of its theatres in the United States and Britain on July 10, with additional cleaning and social distancing measures in place to try to reassure film fans before high-profile summer releases.

The London-based operator expects the first of its theatres to reopen in the last week of June and for all of them to be back in business the following month. Some of its rivals including the world’s largest theatre operator AMC Entertainment expect to reopen globally in July.

Cineworld’s sites in Britain are expected to operate at a maximum capacity of only around 50% because of national rules aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Cineworld, which closed its cinemas globally three months ago, also plans additional cleaning and to adapt movie times to help manage queues and avoid crowds forming in lobbies.

It has updated its booking system to ensure audiences are spread around auditoriums but did not give details of how that would work. It did not say if popcorn and other snacks would still be on sale in foyers.

The operator of about 9,500 screens globally, with more than 7,000 in the U.S. last week abandoned its $1.65 billion deal for Canada’s Cineplex, which had raised concerns about its growing debt pile which stands at $3.5 billion.

Shares in Cineworld, which have fallen around 64% so far this year, were up 6% at 83.7 pence by 1230 GMT.

Director Christopher Nolan’s thriller “Tenet” will debut in cinemas on July 31, its distributor Warner Bros. said last week.

Walt Disney Co’s action epic “Mulan”, another of the summer’s highly anticipated U.S. releases, is scheduled to reach theatres on July 24.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Keith Weir

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