Big Conversation Portsmouth: Entertainment venues face trust battle to welcome back 'uncomfortable' 71% of people

CITY entertainment venues are facing a tough fight to make customers feel safe enough to visit them after lockdown, survey figures from The News reveal today.

Monday, 5th October 2020, 7:00 am

Results from The Big Conversation found 71.83 per cent of Portsmouth people still feel uncomfortable or ‘not comfortable at all’ about visiting cinemas, theatres or music venues.

It comes after swathes of British cinemas closed their doors with immediate effect on March 17 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

A government closure of all UK theatres followed three days later, before prime minister Boris Johnson declared a national lockdown on March 23.

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The Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (021019-7981)

The Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsea, will stage its first in-house show since lockdown, A Christmas Carol, on December 11.

The venue’s production and administration coordinator, Amy Harrison, said: ‘Unfortunately those figures don’t come as much of a surprise.

‘We're doing everything we can behind the scenes to keep visitors safe in the same way pubs, bars and restaurants are.’

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Vue at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth. Picture: Marcus Hessenberg

As previously reported, The Groundlings Theatre spent the start of lockdown trying to recover from a ‘devastating’ burglary that saw it trashed in October, 2019.

Covid-19 measures now mean its capacity will be reduced from 140 to 30 to allow for socially-distanced indoor shows.

But it’s hoped a ‘cabaret-style’ of table service for performances can create an immersive new experience for show-goers.

This will combine with new Covid-19 signage, Test and Trace, hand sanitiser stations and a one-way systems to keep visitors safe.

Amy added: ‘We know it will take time to get back people’s trust, but we’re confident the precautions we’ve taken can ensure we can get back to a level of normality while keeping the public safe.’

The Big Conversation showed positive signs for the industry as 41 per cent of more than 1,000 respondents said entertainment venues were important for their personal quality of life.

Cinema giant Vue reopened its 14 screens at Gunwharf Quays on August 21 and bosses say research since has been promising.

A Vue spokesman told The News: ‘Our own research has found that 82 per cent of those who have been to visit us since reopening would like to return again, with 80 per cent agreeing that they felt safe and comfortable throughout their visit.

‘We are also encouraged to see that 63 per cent of cinema-goers surveyed by the Film Distributors Association and UK Cinema Association think they will return to the cinema in the next few months, up from 58 per cent last month.’

Covid-19 precautions at Vue include an online booking system with inbuilt social distancing, staggered film start and finish times to avoid crowds and PPE issued to all staff.

The cinema is also carrying out enhanced cleans and checks to ensure Covid-19 safety protocol is being strictly followed.

The Big Conversation also found 79 per cent of people feel uncomfortable or very uncomfortable about holidaying abroad.

And 65 per cent said they would continue to shun festivals and spectator sports, while 52 per cent have concerns about museums and galleries.