Today has been a very significant day for me. Today was the day I returned to the cinema following a five-month absence, due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Pre-lockdown the last movie I watched at the cinema was The Hunt. Post lockdown and today’s movie was The New Mutants. One of these movies I enjoyed greatly. The other, not so much.

I am a big fan of going to the cinema – it is something I usually do once or twice a month (three times a month during blockbuster season) – so it has been strange not going to see a film. Of course, like most people, going to the cinema has not been at the forefront of my mind, and I managed fine during the five months of non-attendance… but of course, I missed it greatly.

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I live in Manchester in the UK, and while the cinemas have been open for a few weeks now, I have not felt the urge to return. Part of the reason for this is because Manchester has experienced a spike in cases of COVID-19, and this caused another mini-lockdown (of sorts) which made me feel uneasy about a cinema trip.

But two things got me out of the house today. One of these things, was the desire to watch The New Mutants. The second was to try and regain some kind of normality.

Some people have worked throughout the global pandemic and have managed to navigate their way through the ups and downs fairly well. For others, it has meant a complete about turn, with no work, very little social interactions, and a loss of confidence.

I would say I fall firmly into the second category and this has meant I have found it difficult to adjust to the post-lockdown world. As a result, I have mostly stayed at home, with few trips outside.

I felt that today would be a good day to venture out of the house and adjust to the new normal. Safety is of course of paramount concern, but so is my own sanity/mental health, and I genuinely believe going to the cinema goes a long way to helping with my readjustment to ‘the new normal’.

Of course, things weren’t quite as they were when I last attended the cinema – but they weren’t that different either. Overall, my experience was good.

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So, what has changed?

Well, I can’t speak for every cinema chain up and down the country, but in terms of VUE, it was mostly just a few tweaks here and there.

In terms of tickets, VUE encourages guests to pre-book, to reduce face-to-face contact with staff. This wasn’t really a change for me, as I tend to pre-book anyway, so I turned up at the cinema and picked up my pre-booked ticket as I usually would.

Masks are mandatory, but this has become a prerequisite for all indoor venues, so I expected no less. This did mean wearing a mask during my screening, but I was allowed to remove it when eating/drinking.

Did every guest adhere to the rule? No – but then, I don’t know everyone’s personal circumstances, so they may have had a reason for not wearing their mask. However, all of the staff were wearing a mask or face covering of some sort.

When I booked my ticket I was able to pick my seat, so no change here. The system is also set up to create distance between guests; so, in my screening all of the guests were spaced out from each other (unless they were in attendance together).

The entire building was decked out in signage to ensure every guest knew where to go, and entrances/exits were sign posted accordingly. Signage also carried through into the toilets and all seating areas, to create further distance between guests.

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I felt safe throughout my visit, and while I don’t expect everyone to feel as comfortable as I did, on a personal level I am glad I went. More new releases are due back in cinemas shortly, and I will be attending as many as I am able to.

Does this mean that I am 100% back to regular cinema attendance? That I am unsure of. I do think it is important to support my local cinema, but I also believe there is plenty of room for direct-to-streaming releases too and would like to see more of these working in tandem with theatrical releases.

Although I do take issue with Disney’s current streaming release of Mulan which is priced at an eye-watering £19.99 + £5.99 subscription cost. This is something I won’t be partaking in, and this is kind of pricing needs to be tweaked if direct-to-streaming is to work alongside cinemas.

But I digress…

Today was about returning to the cinema and having now done that, I feel more confident about going back to watch No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 84, Black Widow and a few other major releases due out this year.

Wearing a mask for a couple of hours during a screening was not ideal, but it was a minor inconvenience. Getting back to normal(ish) was far more important.

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