In his 58 years of running a cinema, Bob Mason of Lake Cinema has seen just about everything. So the federal government ban on non-essential gatherings of 100 people or more indoors as of Wednesday morning didn't catch him off guard.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the states will be tasked with implementing the restrictions on social gatherings. The ban is effective immediately.
As of Wednesday morning, Mason has decided to run his scheduled movies (1917 and Just Mercy) this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
"After conferring with the staff we have decided to run this weekend as it was advertised last weekend," he said.
"On Sunday based on the attendance and what the majors are doing we will make a decision on our future."
Mason said his cinema employs 10 staff. The cinema's seating capacity is 175.
Business has been tough since COVID-19 hit Australia.
"We were suffering," he said.
Attendance has dropped severely, with much of his regular audience Over-55s.
"It is so soul destroying," he said. "There is nothing wrong with the movies."
On Wednesday Hoyts Cinema told the Newcastle Herald: "We have placed a limit on the number of bookings that can be made through our systems. We have blocked out any additional seats to ensure that there will never be more than 100 people per auditorium. In addition to this, we have blocked out every other seat in our auditoriums to ensure our guests will have appropriate spacing between them and the next person."
The Regal Cinema in Birmingham Gardens announced on its website it will suspend screenings after this weekend.
Jo Smith, manager and director of The Regal Cinema at Shortland, said earlier this week, "We fully support any Government plan to close cinemas, particularly in areas where the C-Virus is more active."
Smith said the Regal had already been taking extra precautions, including "Glen 20ing" every seat and the cinema, lobby area, box office and toilets before and after each screening; wiping down and sanitising between sessions door knobs, urns, fridges or any surfaces that may have been touched; putting out complimentary hand santitiser and tissues for audience use; limiting attendances to 100 patrons at each session to allow space between groups; and putting patron's names on seats to encourage social distancing.
The Regal, which also charges $8 for admission, has six screenings on Saturday and Sunday.
Reading Cinemas, which has locations in Charlestown Square and Maitland, has Covid-19 precautions on its website, including encouragement to make payment by card instead of cash, and practise "social distancing ("We're encouraging gaps between groups of movie-goers").
As of Wednesday morning, Event, Reading and Hoyts were still running a full schedule of movies at their Newcastle and Hunter cinemas.