Plexiglass and staggered seating: How cinemas in Germany plan to reopen

Cinemas in Germany are beginning to reopen - but with strict rules. Here's a look at what to expect if you venture back to the Big Screen.

Plexiglass and staggered seating: How cinemas in Germany plan to reopen
Plexiglass between the seats of the Cineplex Alhambra in Berlin, where theatres don't yet have an opening date. Photo: DPA

Up until March, most people did not have to give a second thought to going to a movie theatre in Germany. But that had all changed by mid-month, when Kinos across the country closed their doors due to the coronavirus epidemic. 

Yet cinemas around the country are beginning to welcome guests again – albeit with strict hygiene and social distancing rules.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus in Germany: Which restrictions are changing from Monday May 25th?

The first cinemas have already opened nationwide, including some in Hesse, Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Rhineland-Palatinate. 

On Wednesday May 27th Hamburg will follow suit, as will Saxony-Anhalt on Thursday May 28th.

In the coming days re-openings have been announced for North Rhine-Westphalia on May 30th, Baden-Württemberg on June 1st, Brandenburg on June 6th  and Bavaria on June 15th.

But what will cinema attendance look like in the future?

Can you still choose your seats?

Choosing freely where to sit will likely be a thing of the past. Instead, many cinemas are asking their customers to buy their tickets in advance online for specific seats. However, in order to maintain the prescribed distances, not all seats will be available. 

Couples and friends may sit next to each other when booking together, but the current rules require a 1.5 metre distance to the next visitor. 

Cultural institutions around Germany, which have also been closed since mid-March, are also planning staggered seating in order to maintain the distance.

The Berliner Ensemble tweeted a photo on Tuesday of how it's planning to re-welcome guests again. 

Yet how exactly cinemas will enforce social distancing rules when booking is not yet clear everywhere

“Between the seats, which can be booked online as blocks of two, corresponding seats are blocked for the required distance and remain free,” said Cinemaxx managing director Frank Thomsen.

There will likely also be plexiglass between blocks of seats.

According to Christine Berg from the board of directors of HDF Kino, ticket systems could possibly also be modified so that the system automatically blocks the surrounding seats when a booking is made. 

Low capacity of moviegoers

However, the cinemas hope that these distance rules will be loosened. According to the HDF Kino and AG Kino associations, if the distance remains at 1.5 metres, a theatre can only be filled to a maximum of 20 or 25 percent capacity, meaning that the majority of seats remain empty.

 “If two seats are occupied, 12 must remain free,” said Berg. 

According to Christian Bräuer of AG Kino, even a metre distance – as is the case Austria – would be an improvement, because then every row could be occupied. 

“Then a chessboard system would be conceivable in which each row is occupied, but the seats are staggered and not occupied directly behind each other.”

An employee at Cineplex Alhambra demonstrating what the theatre and food counter will look like when they reopen. Photo: DPA


For many people, one of the traditions of going to the cinema is to eat: Some indulge in nachos, others munch on a huge bag of popcorn, while others toast with a beer or prosecco. 

People won’t have to give up noshing in the theatre: at the bars and counters of the cinemas, drinks and snacks will be available as usual. But due to the hygiene regulations it will be a little different than before, similar to the case in supermarkets and other shops. 

That means in most cases: queuing and ordering with distance and a mask. Employees will often stand behind a Plexiglas screen. Maybe in the future, nachos and co. will be handed out with a small cover.

Going to the toilet

Entschuldigung, darf ich mal kurz vorbei?” (Excuse me, can I squeeze past?) was a common term heard at German movies. 

Previously, if you wanted to go to the toilet, you had to push past the other moviegoers in your row, carefully avoiding stepping on toes in the dark. 

Now there will be far fewer people in the same row, if any. The toilets can still be used, yet it is expected that guests will have to wear a mask whenever they leave their seats.

Behind the scenes

Cinema operators are now also organising differently than before. Particularly in larger theatres, films will be more staggered than before so that not as many guests are waiting in the same area at once.

There will also be more frequent cleaning, especially for door handles and surfaces. The doors to the halls will also likely remain open for the time of admission, so that not everyone has to touch the handles. 

Have you been a newly reopened movie theatre in Germany yet? What was your experience?

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Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”