Tired of watching a small screen, Blue Mountains cinema-goers emerged from hibernation today [Thursday] to embrace movies again at United Cinemas The Edge in Katoomba.
After 15 weeks without a big screen, patrons like Judy Winter were keen for the socially distant reboot of cinema, even if the first post COVID-19 lockdown offering was at 10am on a weekday and involved watching a British movie that she had never heard of called Love Sarah.
The cinema capacity is now limited to 30 in the small cinemas and 60 in the large cinema, with social distancing measures in place throughout. Tickets are only $10 for the first week back and there is allocated seating and contactless tickets. It's a slow re-boot, just before the school holidays. Many big movies like Tom Hanks's Greyhound and SpongeBob SquarePants went straight to streaming platforms like Apple TV.
"I thought it would be really busy," Ms Winter of Katoomba said. She was the first ticket buyer and one of only three patrons at the first showing after coronavirus restrictions were lifted by the government this week.
"I only found out this morning. I kept looking online, so I dropped off the grandchildren, did a bit of shopping and came straight here.
"I love going to see movies on the big screen."
Adam Vumbaca, manager for United Cinemas, The Edge in Katoomba, said they had rushed to load their digital offerings on Wednesday and Thursday morning, and were still awaiting the big crowds for movies like Christopher Nolan's Tenet and Disney's Mulan next month.
"The film companies sent the movies really late. We are still uploading to the projector for the first couple of sessions," he said.
About 30 people had called on Wednesday asking about what was showing.
"I think people are pretty bored at home and are keen to get out and see a movie. They miss the smell of freshly made popcorn. We're happy to be back."
Mr Vumbaca, said the JobKeeper scheme had been "great, as it allowed us to keep a number of [eligible] staff employed". He's hoping to start bringing back the other staff who lost their jobs and start advertising again to bring in the crowds.
Screening over the course of the return week at The Edge is Love Sarah, a sugary bakery drama with delicious looking Ottolenghi delights set in Notting Hill. Perhaps custom made for those relying on MasterChef to get through the COVID pandemic, it was released for the Glasgow Film Festival in late February. It stars the wonderful Celia Imrie who is a scene stealer in the children's classic Nanny McPhee and is also in Bridget Jones's Diary and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Othernew release films for the school holidays include: Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs and Samsam. Frozen II is also making a comeback for the holidays and a few March releases including The Current War and Bloodshot are also being shown. For session details go to https://web.cinematic.unitedcinemas.com.au/home
The single screen Glenbrook Cinema and Mt Vic Flicks are yet to return.
Glenbrook's Ron Curran said the cinema will not re-open until at least November.
"Council (the building owners) will have to undertake necessary works for the building's safety. They have to replace the roof structure, lining and cladding in the stage area before replacing the roof that has been leaking for some time."
Kirsten Mullholland from Mt Vic Flicks said they will consider an August or September opening if restrictions ease further.
"We've been approached by so many of our regulars lately as to when we will open, so people are keen to return, though as much as we don't want to disappoint, as a single screen cinema it's just not viable for us while the 4m2 restriction remains in place."
"We plan on re-opening once the restrictions ease further which we hope will be around late August. If the restrictions have not changed by September we will look at changes we can make to allow us to open from then."