Ster Kinekor celebrated the reopening of its cinemas this week by inviting members of the press to a screening of Tenet at the Mall of Africa in Johannesburg.
Cinemas were allowed to reopen across South Africa at the start of July, but a number of the larger players, including Ster Kinekor, opted to reopen later to prepare for the new health and safety guidelines imposed by the government.
Ster Kinekor has said that its cinemas will reopen in two phases, with the first phase having already seen 32 cinemas open a week ago (28 August), with the remaining 21 sites set to open on 18 September.
Before heading to the movies, you will be required to book your tickets and snacks through the Ster Kinekor website or app as this cannot be done at the cinema itself.
The new seating arrangements are clearly laid out, and you are able to book seats as either individuals or in a group while still remaining a safe distance from others.
All Ster-Kinekor cinemas operate with new safety procedures that ensure compliance with directives set out by the government. This means that moviegoers are required to wear a mask when arriving at the cinema.
Upon arrival, you will be asked to have your temperature taken, along with a number of questions about our current health and whether you have been in contact with anyone that has had the coronavirus. You should then be provided with hand sanitiser before moving into the foyer.
Foyer floors have been marked to manage social distancing, and screen times have been staggered to ensure that there is no overcrowding in the foyer between movies.
Self-scan entry points have been set-up so that you can scan your barcoded confirmation email to gain admission before heading to the auditorium. Your confirmation email can also be scanned at the concessions counter for snacks collection.
A full array of drinks and snacks are available for order, however, the big boxes of popcorn have been replaced. Instead, closed packets of popcorn are now provided, with seasoning sachets.
Before entering the cinema we were able to sanitise again and used our barcoded ticket to find our seat.
While we were provided with a seat for the press briefing, it was clear that some seats and rows in the theatre were blocked and would not be used. As a result, we ended sitting in an entirely empty row.
We were allowed to remove our mask to enjoy our snacks, but were instructed before hand, to put them back on during the parts of the movie where we were not eating or drinking.
Prior to the movie starting, we were shown a health and safety video which provided a further overview of the new cinema rules – including the cleaning of the theatre.
After months of being stuck at home watching Netflix and DStv repeats, it was a pleasure to be back at a cinema to watch a movie on the big screen.
The seats are comfortable and the sound and video quality at the cinema is awesome – and we may have to return to watch Tenet again because of all its twists and turns.
Once the movie ends, you will be required to exit the auditorium row-by-row starting from the back of the cinema. You will likely then be requested to remove empty snack containers and discard them in the dustbins placed in the foyer.
While our show started slightly later than scheduled, Ster Kinekor has made arrangements to have all films end by 21h00, giving plenty of time to get home before the 22h00 curfew.
At no point in the process did the process feel uncomfortable. The staff was friendly and helpful, and it’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into reopening the cinemas safely.