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Mannequin movie-goers to help enforce social distancing at cinema

PUBLISHED: 13:34 08 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:36 08 June 2020

The Gorleston Palace cinema is hoping to reopen with a new regime to cut the coronavirus risk Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Gorleston Palace cinema is hoping to reopen with a new regime to cut the coronavirus risk Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A Norfolk cinema is planning to sit model audience members between seats to separate groups returning to its screens next month.

Patrick Duffy, 65, managing director of Palace Bingo and the Palce Cinema in Gorleston High Street, has taken the coronavirus threat very seriously from the start. He was one of the first establishments to introduce temperature checks before people entered his Bingo Hall back in March. Picture: Daniel Hickey.Patrick Duffy, 65, managing director of Palace Bingo and the Palce Cinema in Gorleston High Street, has taken the coronavirus threat very seriously from the start. He was one of the first establishments to introduce temperature checks before people entered his Bingo Hall back in March. Picture: Daniel Hickey.

Being Covid-19 ready at Gorleston’s Palace cinema means a thermal scan on entry and the possibility of sitting next to a plastic companion as its owner Patrick Duffy pulls out all the stops to keep film-fans virus free.

Mr Duffy was one of the first to introduce temperature testing at his Great Yarmouth bingo hall before the lockdown in March - a move that was ridiculed by some in the early stages of the pandemic.

But, as he looks to reopen his Palace Cinema in Gorleston High Street and bingo and casino in Church Plain Great Yarmouth he has pledged his leisure venues will be “the next safest place” outside your own home.

Ahead of a planned reopening on July 4 Mr Duffy has spent some £30,000 on equipment and screens to help with physical distancing, hygiene and health - including the cut-out figures which will keep people from different households 2m apart.

Flashback: Patrick Duffy, 65, managing director of Palace Bingo, testing the temperature of customer Brenda Llwellyn, 74, as a precaution over the coronavirus outbreak back at the beginning of March. Picture: Daniel Hickey.Flashback: Patrick Duffy, 65, managing director of Palace Bingo, testing the temperature of customer Brenda Llwellyn, 74, as a precaution over the coronavirus outbreak back at the beginning of March. Picture: Daniel Hickey.

On arrival at both venues customers will have their temperature taken by a contact-free screen, a process that takes just two seconds.

Everyone must wear a face mask while moving about and on entry and exit, but will be able to remove them when seated.

Cinema capacity will be reduced to 40pc with every other row unfilled and plastic mannequins creating a 2m distance between seated groups.

He said: “A lot of operators are feeling very down.

Inside The Palace Cinema in Gorleston. It is looking to reopen on July 4 with a range of measures to cut the virus risk 
Picture: Nick ButcherInside The Palace Cinema in Gorleston. It is looking to reopen on July 4 with a range of measures to cut the virus risk Picture: Nick Butcher

“But the fact of the matter is that we will bounce back.

“I am in the leisure and entertainment business and people need that.

“A lot of businesses might say that if they are going back with 40pc it’s not going to be viable as there are increased costs but as a contributor to society we need to get going as quickly as we can.

“I am looking forward to it business-wise.

“It is good for Gorleston High Street.

“The bingo is an incredible social event every day of the week.

“It is so important for so many people.

“They cannot sit with a cup of tea at other people’s tables but they can chat through the screens.”

For the first few weeks three of the four cinema screens will be in operation.

Sanitising “foggers” will also be in use at all venues between games and screenings.

“It is as close as we can get to normal,” he added

Masks and gloves will be available to buy in a set for £1.

Great Yarmouth’s Arc Cinema has also confirmed it intends to open on July 4.

The resort’s seafront Pleasure Beach is looking to open on July 11.


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