Melbourne cinema sees “outstanding” flood of support following reopening announcement — but it’s not BAU yet

Kristian Connelly - Nova CEO

Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly. Source: supplied.

The Victorian entertainment industry is shifting gears after restrictions were eased in metropolitan Melbourne on Sunday, allowing indoor venues to hold up to 20 people per space.

Among the Melburnians most anticipating the Victorian Premier’s announcement was Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Connelly says when he heard the news at 10.15am on Sunday, he was fast to prepare reopening the independent Carlton cinema in time to trade the next day.

And Connelly says the public’s response has been overwhelmingly positive with phone and email enquiries spiking on Monday night and an “outstanding” reaction on social media.

Social media in lockdown

During lockdown Connelly didn’t just sit around waiting for advice about when the cinema could reopen — he was active on social media and says his approach to keeping the audience engaged was “quite successful”.

Connelly and his team used Facebook and Instagram to engage people in lockdown with the possibility of what films they could see once Nova could reopen. It was a way to keep busy, he says.

“And that was also paired with the messaging of the films that we would be returning with once we did get the all clear to resume trade, and thankfully there’s been a lot of enthusiasm for the movies that are opening today and on Thursday,” he adds.

Looking ahead

Cinema Nova will reopen Monday at reduced capacity given only 20 people are permitted in each space. The venue has 16 auditoriums.

“Not all cinemas will be able to accommodate 20 people because some of them are smaller and won’t fit 20 people because of the four-square-metre rule, but we can make a go of it,” Connelly says.

Connelly is thankful the government has already announced cinemas will be able to increase capacity to 100 people from November 22, saying it allows him to “look ahead” and account for “higher admissions once the restrictions are further lifted”.

Not much will change in the way Nova works day-to-day because the cinema reopened after the first lockdown and has its COVID-19 safe plan already in place.

“The limited capacity will need us to be a little more mindful of ensuring people are social distancing, however, I think most people are very, very conscious of their obligations as movie-goers because I think that most in Melbourne want to avoid a repeat of the second lockdown,” Connelly says.

Discount Monday suspended

Cinema Nova’s has paused its famous Discount Monday, with its $7 tickets, but Connelly is confident customers will understand why reduced tickets are not feasible right now.

“Last night, I was looking at social media and I noticed somebody queried why we temporarily suspended Discount Monday,” Connelly says.

But he didn’t even have to answer the customer’s question, Connelly tells SmartCompany, because others on the platform rushed to Nova’s defense.

For the most part, reactions on social media show people understand “cinemas have been amongst one of the most hardest hit industries as a result of the pandemic,” says Connelly.

“I’m confident that our audience will embrace all the things they need to do in order to make it a safe movie-going experience not just for them but our staff and for other customers.”

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