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COVID-19 statement - BFI Southbank

Update on BFI Southbank reopening

We are very pleased to welcome you back to BFI Southbank, which reopened on 1 September 2020.

We’ve been extremely touched by the amount of love, support and goodwill we have had from audiences, partners, supporters and filmmakers over the past few months, and we hope that you’ve continued to enjoy our programme at home on BFI Player.

Film is an unrivalled way to tell stories, inspire and unite us, and we can’t wait to welcome you back to share the big screen experience.

The health and safety of our audiences and staff is our first priority. I want to thank BFI staff who have worked so hard to make our reopening as safe as possible for you all. You will find some changes on your return, some of which are outlined below.

If you have questions or concerns, our team are here to help.

Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive

We want to welcome you back as safely as possible. Health and Safety measures will include:

- Regular deep cleaning, including after every screening
- Advanced booking and e-tickets only
- Social distancing in cinemas, with assigned seating
- Dedicated queues for each screen and different entry and exit points
- Fully trained staff wearing PPE

We’d also love to know what you think, so have been emailing audiences to ask how you’d like to experience BFI Southbank as we return.

More details about the programme for reopening, booking dates and health and safety measures can be found on our news page and in our FAQs below.

In the meantime, our Riverfront bar is now open for take away drinks and snacks so come and enjoy a drink by the river in the sunshine.

We hope you continue to enjoy BFI Player. Our shop at BFI Southbank remains closed, but you can check out our range of DVDs and other film essentials, available online from the BFI Shop.

Thank you for continuing to support the BFI. It means a lot to us.

Keeping you safe at BFI Southbank

BFI Southbank reopening – FAQ

When is BFI Southbank re-opening?

BFI Southbank is open from 1 September.

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 amongst many other factors.

We really value our relationships with our BFI members and visitors and want them all to feel as safe and happy about returning to BFI Southbank as possible. We would therefore love to know what they think, and have been emailing audiences to ask how they’d like to experience BFI Southbank as we return.

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 1 September, 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 booking only, enabling 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 in the first instance, 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, 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 exist points for all screens (NFT1, NFT2 and NFT3) 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 3 cinemas that will be in use in September (NFT1, NFT2 and NFT3).

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 1 September (opening hours: Tuesday – Thursday 12:00-16:00 by appointment only):

  • Pre-booking essential via box office or online, for timed entry (booking opening soon, more details to follow).
  • 2m social distancing to be observed at all times, with a total capacity of 14 research spaces.
  • 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 over night.
  • There will be no Special Collection access or access to offsite material in the first phase of opening – any change to this policy will be clearly announced on the Library pages on the BFI website.
  • Limited scanning and computer access.
  • The Digital Library on Demand service will still remain operational; researchers 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 1 September (opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 12:00-17:30 by appointment only):

  • Pre-booking essential via box office or 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?

Our Riverfront restaurant and bar is now open for fish and chips, salads and pizza plus a full kids menu. Visit us from 10am for all day dining or a drink at the bar. We aren't taking bookings at the moment but tables are always available.

BFI Bar & Kitchen is also open with a reduced menu of delicious sandwiches and nibbles. Visit our fully stocked bar for a pre or post-film drink. Please book a table in advance.

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 track 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 track and trace team that someone has tested positive for Covid-19 then customers and staff will be alerted in line with track and trace procedures.

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. All tickets must be purchased in advance either online or by calling the box office. Tickets will be either posted (where time allows) or emailed as e-tickets. No collections will be allowed at the box office. 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.

I am a BFI Member, will there be any discount or benefit applied to my membership to recognise the months the venue was closed?

We will updating BFI Members about their benefits soon, with a focus on making sure they are getting value for money from their memberships, and to say a big thank you to them for supporting us during this uncertain and difficult period.

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).

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