Lockdown for Embassy 3's Gary Vinnell meant a lot of planning.

"Creating lots of scenarios to sit there, so if I need to go to a Plan B, I've got one ... or a Plan C or Plan D."

Under alert level 2 the theatre's doors are open, but things look a little different.

"We have seating arrangements which we will operate and monitor and we have the normal processes in place when you come through."


There are soft barriers to create pathways to keep people apart, flat surfaces have sanitiser bottles and cleaning products, and staff are well versed in the new protocols. And they would prefer payment by eftpos, rather than cash.

"It's not that different: the only problem is product," says Gary.

"Our supply chain is an international one and the top markets for the industry are the US, Europe and China. So just prior to lockdown, coming through March, studios started pulling their product from release ... it went on and on. There is no real new release mainstream film coming our way until July 23."

It's also a fact that the pandemic has put a halt to movie production.

"There was a range of good films — your James Bonds, Miss Fisher and all that — that they withdrew from the market, so we had nothing we would normally have for the April school holidays, we've got nothing mainstream lined up until late July."

He says even New Zealand films are released through a distribution network and they're all holding back.

"The likes of Rialto have some of their art films being released on June 11 and [Metropolitan] operas we will be allowed to screen.

"So what we're doing is playing stuff we had on board just before lockdown and then we'll go back and look at older films, and, of course, we'll reduce the price."


With the environment and ambience the big screen theatres provide, Gary is hoping to see support from Whanganui people.

A small group of talented young Embassy 3 employees have formed themselves into a marketing team and are coming up with ideas.

"The girls have come up with some concepts and one of them is called Throwback Thursday. Every Thursday we'll take a film from, say, 1997, and throw it on the screen for one showing. Over Saturdays and Sundays we'll cycle what we can get our hands on in terms of older product."

During lockdown the theatre held a Facebook promotion aimed at selling "reboot" tickets at a reduced rate of $7.50, any of which can be redeemed at Embassy 3 this year.

"Within 24 hours we'd sold more than 1000 of them," says Gary. "It just went nuts! Thank you Whanganui! That helped us greatly. The punters have supported us and now we're passing it back through the system to other businesses in Whanganui."

Gary says he'll be operating three of Embassy's four cinemas through level 2 and will be open for three days a week to begin with.

"It'll just tick things over and keep the staff on.

"So we want it to be business as usual and ask our customers to respect our social distancing measures we have in place."