Mask on, hands wrung and stood safely back from the visored staff, I’m just about ready for a viewing experience even J.J. Abrahams couldn’t have predicted at a time not too long ago when fans were descending on multiplexes with LED swords and Wookie masks.
Showcase Cinemas are ploughing on, turning an increasingly furrowed reel where other movie chains are all but throwing in the can.
Cineworld blinked first as word leaked out that it plans to temporarily close all of its theatres in the UK and US, a move which followed a £1.3billion loss for the first half of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Then Odeon, which has a multiplex at the Skydome, announced it will shut a quarter of cinemas during the week.
Showcase instead announced that it was “committed” to keeping all of its UK cinemas open and remained “passionate” about creating the best environment for customers to watch film.
So over at the de Lux, the giant multiplex on Cross Point Business Park just outside Coventry, staff wearing visors and masks serve tickets from behind Perspex screens and amble around among empty counters, serving the smattering of customers navigating the floor markings.
The floors, screens and popcorn cabinets are disinfected to high definition, but like any other night since the cinema mothership reopened, it’s a slow night.
Inside, staff seem surprisingly chirpy, even at a ratio of three to a customer and faced with weekend laughing gas parties and the gloomy scenes outside.
But there is no doubt that times are hard.
Outside, Daniel Craig stares out from a bill for the new James Bond movie – on which the film world had been pinning its revival hopes and which has been postponed from next month into 2021 – cutting a rather downcast epitaph.
The title No Time to Die is at least appropriate to Showcase’s decision to keep the projectors rolling.
A moral victory is at least won by the makers of The Trial of The Chicago 7 in that cinema is not lacking for acute, big-name performances, textured story-telling and sparkling dialogue.
Spotless VIP seats abound and the space makes Kermode and Mayo’s hallowed Code of Conduct an irrelevance.
There’s also been the ingenuity of Tenet and the handsome carnage of The Eight Hundred, though neither came close to the inverted golden bullet needed to draw crowds back to the pictures.
But kickstarting the film industry is going to take more than a handful of appreciative cinephiles on a sodden Wednesday.
Few retail businesses can have such huge overheads per number of customers.
And that’s without taking into account turkeys such as the Vin Diesel comic book adaptation, Bloodshot.
Strolling back to the car past the barren Frankie and Bennies – with hopeful ‘to let’ signs outside – it’s evident there is much more resting on cinema’s fortunes than a bunch of A-listers pawing over scripts in beachside apartments.
On the basis of this screening, I fear the Showcase is facing its own cliff-edge ending.