The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, ADDED, has issued a new circular allowing owners of cinemas inside shopping malls across Abu Dhabi to resume operations and open their doors to the public provided they comply to the precautionary measures being implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19.

In a statement by the ADDED on Monday, the circular directs cinema owners to resume their activities at only 30 percent capacity of their halls. It also directs them to continuously sanitise and clean all their service facilities and common areas where food and beverage products are sold.

The move was made in coordination with the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Committee for COVID-19 pandemic, an ADDED press release said on Monday.

Rashed Abdul Karim Al Balooshi, Under-Secretary of ADDED, stated that the new circular is part of the department’s efforts to support the services and entertainment sectors and expedite their gradual return in providing various activities to better serve the members of the community following a series of closure circulars due to pandemic.

Al Balooshi added that cinema owners also should apply social distancing measures between visitors inside and outside the cinema halls; comply with wearing masks; and conduct COVID-19 tests for all their staff members. "Granting the cinema reopening permit is subject to the fulfillment of all the set of requirements," he noted.

He mentioned that the circular includes ensuring the compliance to all the precautionary measures stipulated in other previously issued circulars concerning the resumption of activities, and that fully adhering to these measures are necessary to reopen cinemas, considering that a large number of people visit these venues, especially when new films are running.

He also emphasised that cinemas that do not comply with the circular’s conditions and instructions will not be permitted to resume activities and display movies. He also highlighted that ADDED’s inspection and monitoring teams will conduct visits to ensure the implementation of all precautionary measures and procedures. Meanwhile, penalties will be issued to violators.

ADDED’s Under-Secretary noted that there are 19 cinemas operating in the emirate, 12 in Abu Dhabi city, six in Al Ain city and one in Al Dhafra region. He emphasised the importance of executing comprehensive daily sanitisation of all cinema halls after their operation hours and between shows, providing that 20 – 30-minute break shall separate between each show.

Moreover, hand sanitisers should be offered in all public areas, entries, exits, washrooms, and other prominent areas.

Al Balooshi highlighted that F&B products should be provided in disposable single-use utensils, containers, and cups. Cinemas are also advised to encourage visitors to use electronic payment methods and buy tickets in advance using digital platforms.

Furthermore, cinemas are required to allocate two seats for each visitor; empty the on both sides; cancel an entire row between each two rows; and clearly place social distancing marks on the floor and instruction signs at entries, exits, ticket windows and refreshments areas. They are also not allowed to use touch screens to display movies’ trailers or use ticket dispensing machines. In addition, distribution of movies’ promotional leaflets or brochures to the public is prohibited.

ADDED has instructed cinema owners to arrange for COVID-19 tests for all their staff members. The cinema staff and visitors also must always wear gloves and masks while blankets, covers or massage seats allocated in key areas within cinema halls should not be provided for visitors.