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COVID-19 statement - BFI Southbank

BFI Southbank reopening

We’re looking forward to seeing you again at BFI Southbank.

Keeping you safe at BFI Southbank

When will BFI Southbank re-open?

BFI Southbank reopens on 17 May.

We have undertaken a highly detailed project that has focused on ensuring the health and safety of our staff and visitors in order to open in the most responsible way possible. This project, which will continue to respond to ongoing government guidance, industry intelligence and audience feedback, includes staff training and liaising with our unions, extensive risk assessments and operational considerations such as maintaining social distancing throughout the venue (including the auditorium/cinemas), toilet and sanitation facilities, air conditioning, frequency of deep cleans, ticket purchasing, scheduling and staggering of screenings, dealing with family groups, vulnerable people and programming among many other factors.

We've been extremely touched by the amount of love, support and goodwill we’ve had from audiences, partners, supporters and filmmakers during these unprecedented times. We’re truly humbled, and thank you.

What social distancing measures will be put in place across the venue?

From 17 May, access to the building will be through advance booking only, enabling staff to control the number of people in the building at any one time, and ensure social distancing is adhered to. General public areas, including the Foyer, BFI Reuben Library and Mediatheque will be subject to 2m social distancing, while 1m+ social distancing will be enforced in the cinemas and bars. One-way systems, socially distant queuing systems and additional entry and exit points for the building will also be in place, clearly signposted and managed by staff to further enable visitors to maintain social distancing.

Can I come to the BFI Southbank without booking in advance?

No, access to the building will be through advance online or phone booking only. Our phone lines are open from 11.30am-8.30pm daily on 0207 928 3232. Please note screenings will come off sale 45 minutes before their advertised start time to allow us to open the cinema doors safely and promptly. There is no Box Office counter in operation at present so tickets cannot be purchased or collected in the venue. To book Access Tickets or ask any questions about access, please call our dedicated box office number on 020 7960 2102. For all other enquiries, please email us at box.office@bfi.org.uk. This will enable our staff to control the number of people in the building at any one time, and ensure social distancing is adhered to. This includes cinema screenings and the use of the BFI Reuben Library and BFI Mediatheque. The BFI Shop will remain closed for the time being, with the online shop continuing to operate. The BFI Riverfront and the BFI Bar and Kitchen will open with a socially-distant operation. Specific details about use of the Library, Mediatheque and restaurants is below.

What social distancing measures will be put in place in the cinemas?

All cinemas will be operated with social distancing measures in place and a reduced capacity. Tickets must be booked in advance, and will be allocated with 1m+ social distancing between seats. Aside from a small number of paired seats in NFT1 and The Studio, household bubbles will not be able to sit directly next to one another, but will be allocated the nearest available socially distant seat. There will be dedicated entry and exit points for all screens (NFT1, NFT2, NFT3 and Studio) from outside the venue, with socially distant queues in operation prior to screenings.

There will be onscreen information and/or introductions from BFI staff to all screenings, reinforcing health and safety information and reassuring customers about social distancing, toilet facilities, and entrances and exits. All screenings will be monitored throughout by a member of staff to ensure social distancing and the wearing of face coverings is adhered to. BFI Southbank’s no latecomers rule will be strictly enforced with screenings starting at the advertised time.

To mitigate against the reduced capacity of our screens, and make sure that audiences have a number of screening options, we will introduce additional daytime screenings across the 4 cinemas that will be in use in May (NFT1, NFT2, NFT3 and Studio).

Is the BFI shop open?

Our physical shop at BFI Southbank will remain closed for the time being, but our online Shop is open as usual. If you have any questions about your order, please contact bfishop@bfi.org.uk. BFI Player can also be enjoyed from your own home.

Is the BFI Reuben Library open?

The BFI Reuben Library is open from 17 May (opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 12:00-16:00 by appointment only):

  • Pre-booking is essential online, for timed entry.
  • 2m social distancing to be observed at all times,.
  • It is essential that all material must be requested in advance of your visit, including material that was previously open access – request online here.
  • Material used will be placed in quarantine for 72 hours to ensure the safety of staff and visitors.
  • Regular cleaning during the day of the spaces/equipment used, and deep cleaning overnight.
  • Limited scanning and computer access.
  • The Digital Library on Demand service is operational; researchers unable to visit the library can request digital copies of material via this online form for a small fee.

Is the BFI Mediatheque open?

The BFI Mediatheque is open from 17 May (opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 12:00-17:30 by appointment only):

  • Pre-booking is essential online, for timed entry during one of two sessions. Session 1 will run 12:00 – 14:30, session 2 will run 15:00 – 17:30.
  • 2m social distancing to be observed at all times, with a total capacity of 10 research spaces.
  • Regular cleaning during the day of the spaces/equipment used, including between the two timed sessions, and deep cleaning over night.

Are the restaurants - BFI Riverfront and BFI Bar & Kitchen - open?

In line with the government roadmap, we are planning to reopen the BFI Riverfront for outdoor dining and drinking from 12 April. The BFI Bar and Kitchen and BFI Stephen Street Kitchen will remain closed for the time being.

Will you be asking customers to wear facemasks? Or providing them?

Our current risk assessment calls for face coverings to be worn throughout BFI Southbank, including in screenings. We will be asking all customers who are able to wear masks to do so on entry to the venue (but will not be providing masks to members of the public). Any customer who has an accessibility need or medical reason that prohibits them from wearing a mask will be exempt from this, but we do ask that they contact us prior to their visit to ensure that we can implement additional safety measures.

Will staff have PPE?

Customer-facing staff who carry out activities where there is a potential of not being able to maintain 2m social distancing at all times will be provided with masks. Gloves, hand gel and sanitising wipes will also be provided to staff, with some front of house staff (for example those checking e-tickets) being provided with visors to enable lip reading. Staff temperatures will also be checked on arrival to the venue.

Will you be taking part in the test and trace programme?

We will be taking contact details for all bookings for the venue. If we are alerted by an individual or the NHS test and trace team that someone has tested positive for Covid-19 then customers and staff will be alerted in line with test and trace procedures. In addition, there are QR codes on all entrances in order for customers to be able to check in on the NHS App.

What cleaning protocols are you using in the venue?

There will be an enhanced cleaning regime in place at the venue. This will include cleanings in-between screenings, in between sessions in the BFI Reuben Library and BFI Mediatheque, and multiple daily touch point cleaning.

Will the public toilets throughout the venue be open. And if so, how will their use be managed?

All public toilets within the building will be open for customer use. We will operate a reduced capacity in those toilets where it is difficult to socially distance. An enhanced cleaning regime will be in operation to ensure safety and staff will be on hand to monitor use, direct customers and control numbers.

Will hand sanitiser be provided?

There will be multiple hand sanitiser stations available throughout the building.

Do the auditoriums have air con? Have you factored this in a potential risk to Covid-19 spreading further?

All auditoriums have a full fresh air system and the air is not recirculated. We will be looking at how we can improve the quantity of fresh air supplied to each space to increase the frequency of air changes.

Will screenings be monitored to ensure people are abiding by social distancing rules?

Yes. Staff are always available in the auditorium to assist customers and will, in addition, monitor social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.

Can I turn up without buying a ticket in advance?

No, access to the building will be through advance online or phone booking only. Our phone lines are open from 11.30am-8.30pm daily on 0207 928 3232. Please note screenings will come off sale 45 minutes before their advertised start time to allow us to open the cinema doors safely and promptly. There is no Box Office counter in operation at present so tickets cannot be purchased or collected in the venue. Tickets will be either posted (where time allows) or emailed as e-tickets. Entry to screens will come via newly designated points outside the building in order to restrict access to the venue to those who have pre-booked only.

What support will there be for those with access requirements?

Accessible screenings, including those with subtitles and audio description, will be available. While we will be unable to provide some physical contact support methods previously offered, we are working on Covid-secure approaches to accessibility support for example, some front of house staff (including those checking e-tickets) being provided with visors to enable lip reading. We recommend that anyone who requires support should contact the box office's dedicated access line ahead of their visit, so that we can make additional safety arrangements and provisions (including accessible seating).

What happens if you are unable to reopen in May?

If the government introduce additional restrictions from 17 May that prevent us from reopening, all customers who have purchased advance tickets will be contacted and offered refunds or exchanges.

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