Are the seats cleaned after every screening? Your frequently asked questions on UAE cinema reopenings, answered

Can I have snacks? And have indie cinemas opened, too?

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. November 12, 2014///

The regular/standard VOX cinema. Abu Dhabi's 20-screen VOX Cinemas at Yas Mall. 3 luxury VOX GOLD cinemas, 2 VOX MAX screens with the biggest screen in Abu Dhabi measuring 23.5 meters. Also, introducing VOX 4DX in Abu Dhabi for the first time, and a private branded child friendly branded cinema. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Mona Al Marzooqi/ The National 

Reporter: Chris Newbould
Section: Arts & Life
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As moviegoers head back to the big screens, The National finds out exactly what customers can expect at the country's cinemas.


On May 27, cinemas in Dubai were allowed to reopen, with strict safety measures in place. This includes people maintaining a social distance of two metres and wearing face masks at all times, temperature checks on arrival, plus frequent sterilisations of public areas.

Cinemas will have a limited capacity, with plenty of seats in between viewers to ensure physical distancing. The capacity of toilets and lifts at entertainment facilities are also capped.

Here we answer some of your most frequently asked questions about these terms and conditions.

Are seats cleaned after every use?

Regular disinfections are mandatory, as per the government's requirements. At Vox Cinemas, for example, the team have scheduled 20 to 30 minutes between each screening to allow for a deep cleaning of the auditoriums. This includes sanitising the seats. "We also carry out high-intensity sterilisation of auditoriums on a daily basis and use fogging machines for enhanced disinfection," explains Cameron Mitchell, chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas.

What is being done to ensure air quality, particularly in smaller cinema rooms?

Other than regular disinfection, there is nothing mandatory in this regard, but Mitchell explains how Vox Cinemas has tackled the issue.

"We use industrial-standard air handling units in our auditoriums, which cleans the air and improves its quality [by] using a two-stage filtration process. The units are maintained to the highest standards, and tested and cleaned on a regular basis to maximise performance and maintain efficiency. Our auditoriums also have high ceilings and ceiling-mounted extraction, which allows for better air flow."

Are employees being checked for Covid-19 before returning to work?

It is not mandatory for employees to have a specific Covid-19 test, but they are having temperatures regularly checked in line with governmental requirements.

"We are following the regional regulatory standards on fitness to work, including checking employees' temperatures when they arrive at work," says Mitchell. "We are also in regular communication with our teams to ensure they are aware of preventative measures and safety precautions. Our employees are also provided with face masks and gloves, which are now mandatory to wear."

This is the protocol across the board.

Do I have to buy tickets at the desk?

All cinemagoers are being encouraged to buy their tickets online before attending a screening, although you are still able to buy physical tickets at a desk. These will have been sanitised between use.

Can I still get snacks?

Yes. These are being well packaged and sealed by the people preparing them. The National's Razmig Bedirian visited a Vox cinema in Mirdif and reported that popcorn now comes in a single size, served already packaged and in a resealable paper bag.

A video posted on Reel Cinemas' Instagram account shows the measures the teams are taking to keep food protected.

What about independent cinemas?

Dubai is mostly home to big-name cinema chains, but one arthouse cinema that has captured the nation's (not just the city's) attention is Cinema Akil. While the Alserkal Avenue venue is not yet open, a post on Instagram said the team are preparing for reopening, although a launch date has not yet been confirmed. The National has reached out for comment.

I'm not ready to go back into a cinema yet. What other alternatives do I have?

Drive-through cinemas have made a big comeback here in the UAE and across the world. Reel Cinemas has launched one in the Zabeel extension of The Dubai Mall. And Mall of the Emirates is offering nightly viewings in the Al Barsha shopping centre's car park.

Novo Cinemas is also offering film lovers the option to book their own private cinema screen.

What films are being screened since most release dates have been postponed?

There is a severe lack of new blockbusters out at the moment due to cinema closures and release-date postponements across the world, so UAE theatres are relying on recent favourites to pull in punters.

At Vox right now, for instance, you could see Bombshell, Aquaman, Knives Out, Jojo Rabbit and Parasite, to name a few.

Reel Cinemas is screening films such as A Quiet Place, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, The Hustle, Joker and 1917.

At a Roxy Cinemas branch you could watch The Gentlemen, The Invisible Man, Bloodshot and Bad Boys For Life.

Check cinema websites for more information.

Abu Dhabi

Cinemas are yet to open in the capital.

Northern emirates

Cinemas remain closed in Sharjah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain. They are allowed to reopen with strict safety measures in place in Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah.

As of Wednesday, July 1, it is expected that a new drive-in cinema will open in Sharjah, offering nightly movies for free on a first-come, first-served basis.