Could cinema pods be the solution to COVID-safe movie watching?

Tom Beasley
·Contributor
·3-min read
Pod-based cinema viewing is an idea posed by French architecture firm Ōma Cinema. (Credit: Ōma Cinema)
Pod-based cinema viewing is an idea posed by French architecture firm Ōma Cinema. (Credit: Ōma Cinema)

They look more like the Galactic Senate from Star Wars than the average multiplex seating plan.

However, new cinema pods could be the perfect solution to make communal movie viewing a safe experience in the age of social distancing.

Developed by French architecture firm Ōma Cinema, the concept would see audiences watching a film in groups within a personal pod.

Read more: Cinema spending won’t return to normal until 2023

The design allows for the slope of the seating to be around 50-60 degrees — more than double the industry standard slope of around 20-25 degrees.

This enables everyone to be closer to the screen and, with entrance and exit via the back of the room, it minimises the disruption from other audience members walking in and out.

(Credit: Ōma Cinema)
(Credit: Ōma Cinema)

Co-founder Nicholas Chican told Forbes India that cinema operators have been enthusiastic about the company’s concept.

He said: “Most cinema operators whom we approached told us that we have finally found a solution to combine the intimacy of being in a private club with a limited number of seats and at the same time, enjoy a really immersive viewing experience.”

Ōma’s plan is now to approach cinemas in India, which often have luxurious spaces and could therefore accommodate the ambitious design.

Read more: How does Warner Bros streaming decision affect the UK?

While Ōma’s design was conceived before COVID-19, it obviously lends itself well to the notion of social distancing and has become even more intriguing to the industry since

The temporarily closed Prince Charles Cinema in London on November 05, 2020. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The temporarily closed Prince Charles Cinema in London on November 05, 2020. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

“[Cinema operators] need to think about the future and invest in it,” said consultant Jean-Marie Dura.

“It is a necessity now more than ever to propose something different to the audience so that they would want to go back to the cinema.”

Read more: Patty Jenkins warns movie theatre experience could disappear

Cinemas remain closed in much of the Western world as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to bite.

England is currently in the midst of its third national lockdown, with cinemas among the thousands of entertainment venues forced to shut their doors as cases rose during the winter months.

Daniel Craig returns as James Bond on the IMAX poster for 'No Time To Die'. (Credit: Eon/Universal)
Daniel Craig returns as James Bond on the IMAX poster for 'No Time To Die'. (Credit: Eon/Universal)

With the situation dire for multiplexes in both the USA and UK, Hollywood has acted by delaying many of its biggest upcoming movies until crucial markets have reopened.

Most significantly, the James Bond outing No Time to Die — Daniel Craig’s final adventure as 007 — has recently been delayed for a third time as a result of the pandemic.

Read more: The troubled timeline of No Time to Die

The movie is now due to be released on 8 October, having originally been completed ahead of an April 2020 release date.

Other blockbusters, including Sony superhero movie Morbius and Ghostbusters: Afterlife have also been shunted into the future.

There’s currently no clear roadmap for when multiplex cinemas will be able to reopen — futuristic space pods or otherwise.

Watch: Closed UK cinema becomes vaccination hub