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Return of the silver screens: Oxford indoor cinemas to reopen starting today

Yan Chen reports on the reopening of cinemas across Oxford.

The vast majority of Oxford cinemas are planning to reopen today, Monday 17th May, after going dark for months since the last national lockdown began in December. These include the Oxford branches of film chains Odeon (George Street location), Curzon, and Cineworld, as well as Oxford’s only and oldest independent cinema Ultimate Picture Palace on Cowley Road. Phoenix Picturehouse, owned by Cineworld and located in Jericho, will reopen on 19th May.

Both Phoenix Picturehouse and the Ultimate Picture Palace are making up for their closure during the film awards season by unveiling a slate of award-winning and award-nominated films. These include Oscar-winning biographical drama Judas and the Black Messiah, about the betrayal of Black Panther Party activist Fred Hampton, and Sound of Metal, the story of a drummer coming to terms with losing his hearing. 

Additionally, Phoenix Picturehouse will serve up a mix of action, comedy, and vibrant solo melodrama, screening Godzilla vs. Kong, Peter Rabbit 2, and Pedro Almodóvar’s The Human Voice with a recorded director Q&A, starring Tilda Swinton and filmed during the pandemic. 

The Ultimate Picture Palace will also screen Chloé Zhao’s Best Picture Oscar winner Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand as a jobless, “houseless” woman wandering through the American landscape, and Lee Isaac Chung’s Golden Globe-winning Minari, the story of a Korean family trying to set down roots in rural Arkansas. To complement the two works, it has curated a series of classic films about pastoral America from David Lynch, Terrence Malick, and Bob Rafelson. Romances historical (Francis Lee’s Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as a couple) and suspenseful (German director Christian Petzold’s latest, Undine) add an arthouse touch to the programming. 

Representatives from Odeon and Curzon pointed viewers to their websites for soon-to-be-available screening schedules. Anticipated screenings over the summer and autumn include blockbusters Fast and Furious 9, Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick, and the latest Bond film, No Time to Die

Cinemas are offering new discount schemes in the wake of reopening. Odeon has reduced the price for myLIMITLESS, its unlimited viewing scheme, to £9.99 per month. Its free-to-sign-up membership scheme, myODEON, allows audiences to see films for as low as £6 on its “Member Mondays” and selected showings Tuesday through Sunday. A representative stated that Curzon will offer a discounted membership for patrons under 25 and concessionary tickets available for students on some films. 

Phoenix Picture House continues to offer a £14 annual student membership which includes two free tickets, discounted food and drink, and priority booking. The Ultimate Picture Palace’s new free-to-sign-up Five Pound Film Pass allows 15-to-25-year-olds entry to all its screenings (barring special events) for £5. It also continues to offer its £20 annual student membership scheme. 

In accordance with government guidance, cinemas will follow COVID-19 guidance, with masks required indoors except when eating and drinking, social distancing measures including limited seating, more rigorous cleaning, and staggered starting times for screenings. 

Image credit: Motacilla / CC-SA 4.0

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