Reading Cinemas New Zealand will open all its theatres on Thursday but New Zealand's biggest cinema chain is staying shut with no word when it will re-open.
Mark Douglas, managing director of the Reading business in New Zealand, released a statement saying two theatres had already re-opened, in Napier and Rotorua, and that had been successful.
"The remainder of the New Zealand cinema circuit will re-open on Thursday. The re-opening is in line with Government and health department regulations via the national easing of Covid-19 restrictions," the statement said.
But commercial giants Event Cinemas with 19 outlets and the 10-theatre Hoyts chain are staying shut with no announcement of when people will be able to return to its theatres nationally.
Reading lists nine theatres on its web site: LynnMall in Auckland's New Lynn, Napier, Rotorua, a Hutt "pop-up", Porirua, Christchurch's The Palms, Queenstown, Dunedin and Invercargill.
That cinema operator said it had implemented new measures to ensure safety of all customers and staff.
Numbers inside theatres and auditoriums will be reduced. Seating will be staggered to ensure physical distancing.
"A stringent cleaning programme is being introduced alongside contact tracing for all who attend, including delivery drivers and suppliers," the statement said.
Family Viewing: Kiwi celebs on their early TV memories
Lights, cameras, action: Hawke's Bay movie-goers get options as theatres start to reopen
"We are excited to welcome our loyal customers across the country back to the movies. It has been a difficult few months for everyone and we look forward to providing a welcome distraction as New Zealand emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic," Douglas said.
Feedback from customers in the Napier and Rotorua cinemas last week was positive "and gives us great confidence to safely re-open the remainder of our locations".
Reading wants customers to buy tickets online but for those who don't, it says it prefers contactless payments.
The cinema sector has suffered not only from closures since late March but also from lack of new supply of films, forcing those that did open to continue to show films released months ago, like period drama 'Emma'.
Last month, New Zealand's biggest cinema chain said it was looking at cutting its workforce as it restructures in response to weeks of lockdown when people could not go to the movies.
Carmen Switzer, Event Cinemas NZ general manager, said in May the business was restructuring and "entering into a consultation process with staff and the unions to reduce its workforce, in line with the current and future business requirements".
Event runs its own branded cinemas as well as the Rialto chain.
John Crocker, an industrial officer with Unite Union, said his entity represented about 167 Event workers and he estimated that business employed around 350 people in this country.
On March 23, Event said all movie theatres were to be shut.
Event Cinemas' website says today: "All Event cinemas, The Embassy, and Rialto (Newmarket and Dunedin) cinemas are temporarily closed." It gives no indication when it will re-open theatres.
Event lists its locations as Whangarei, Albany, Broadway, Newmarket, St Lukes, Queen St, Henderson's Westcity, Manukau, Westgate at Massey, New Plymouth, Mt Maunganui, Tauranga Crossing, Tauranga Central, Havelock North, Coastlands, Chartwell, Palmerston North, The Embassy and Blenheim.
Event had only opened its state-of-the-art boutique Newmarket theatre in the $795m Westfield a few weeks before the pandemic lockdown struck.
Cinema-goers have taken to social media to express their disappointment in Event failing to re-open, asking what it means for their membership points and how they can redeem $8 tickets.
One customer said surely it would be commercially viable for Event to open, now that gatherings of up to 100 people were allowed.
The 10-theatre Chinese-owned national Hoyts chain says today: "We're so close to re-opening, you can almost smell the popcorn." It also gives no definite date when customers can return to its cinemas.