Published On: Sun, Mar 15th, 2020

Coronavirus: How Saturday Night Takeaway, pubs, and cinemas are keeping audiences safe | Ents & Arts News

The government is expected to table legislation in the Commons next week which would ban gatherings of more than 500 people.

While some of the largest sports leagues and enterainters have already taken action, smaller venues and acts say shutdown could do serious harm to their businesses.

Sky News has spoken to pubs, cinemas and Live TV broadcasters to see what they’re doing to keep customers and audiences safe.

Pubs and clubs

For independent bars and clubs, the prospect of a lack of revenue is daunting.

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) is one of London’s most famous LGBT+ pubs, frequently selling out cabaret and club nights like Duckie and Push The Button.

The chancellor Rishi Sunak, in his recent budget, announced the abolition of business rates for certain companies to help them during the COVID-19 pandemic. But this hasn’t alleviated the RVT’s chief executive James Lindsay’s concerns.

A general view of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in south London on July 18, 2015. London is one of the world's most gay-friendly cities, and many LGBT people feel welcome in mainstream establishments. Many gay people are frequenting mainstream venues amid an atmosphere of greater tolerance. Others are ditching bars and clubs altogether, and with the proliferation of dating websites and mobile phone apps, are choosing to make contacts online. AFP PHOTO / NIKLAS HALLE'N        (Photo credit should read NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
The owner of the pub told Sky News that the pandemic made for “uncomfortable thinking”

“The government took a step in the week to give businesses a rate-free period, but it’s not helping us in any way,” he told Sky News.

“It’s really concerning. Because of the nature of the virus, we’re not covered by our insurance. It is uncomfortable thinking at the moment.”

Mr Lindsay added that the impact of the outbreak could affect the wider nightlife industry.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, said: “This is a question of survival for hospitality businesses. In two months they will run out of cash, putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.”

Wetherspoons, one of the most popular pub chains in the UK, has yet to say whether they will be closing stores.

In a statement on their website, however, the chain said it would be “educating employees on prevention” and “cleaning and sanitising contact points more frequently”.


Film production and promotion schedules have been affected by the outbreak, with Disney pushing back the release of its remake of Mulan and the soft reboot of the X-Men franchise, The New Mutants.

The UK Cinema Association, which represents the interests of UK cinema operators, has said COVID-19 should not mean the public cannot visit the cinema.

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But the organisation warned: “The decision by a number of US studios to delay the release of several of their upcoming major films presents an unprecedented challenge to many UK cinemas, and is something which may genuinely call into question the survival of a number of sites.”

One UK chain, Showcase Cinemas, has taken measures into their own hands, ahead of government and public health advice.

In an email to customers, Showcase said it would be reducing audience capacity by 50% in auditioriums in order to allow for space between seats.

“If staff or a guest at the cinema is showing symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath, they will be respectfully asked to leave,” the company said in the email.

Live Television

ITV, whose entertainment programmes like Dancing On Ice and The Voice UK rely heavily on live audiences, has told Sky News that it would prefer shows to be made without an audience.

In a message of guidance to production teams, the company said the measure is “precautionary” and that “all productions” are being assessed.

But Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, one of the UK’s most popular Saturday night programmes, will continue to go ahead “business as usual” according to one of its presenters Declan Donnelly.

ITV also said that fewer than 500 people are in the studio for Saturday Night Takeaway, adding it would comply with advice given by Public Health England and the World Health Organisation.

The channel went on to say: “All of our audience handling agencies are sharing the updated advice from the NHS site with audiences prior to attending our shows and we continue to work with them to update advice as and when it changes.”

EDITORIAL USE ONLY 300 fans of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway depart from London Gatwick on a chartered Virgin Holidays plane to celebrate the series finale which airs this Saturday April 8th.
Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway often takes viewers abroad to celebrate the show’s final episode of the series

Channel 5 is taking further steps. The channel said in a statement: “As a precautionary measure we have taken the decision not to have a live studio audience for The Jeremy Vine Show for the time being.

“We will continue to monitor and review official guidelines and advice.”

BBC television and radio presenter Jeremy Vine leaves the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) studios in central London on July 19, 2017.
Britain's public broadcaster BBC came under fire on Wednesday for its gender pay imbalance after it was forced to reveal how much it pays its top-earning talent. For the first time in its 94-year existence, the BBC was this year forced to release a list of its employees paid more than £150,000 ($195,000, 170,000 euros) between 2016/2017, after a change in its charter last year. Vine was one of more than 200 names that fetured on the list -- which includes executives, actors, presenters, writers and technicians. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Channel 5 has announced there will be no audience members in upcoming editions of Jeremy Vine’s daytime talk show

The BBC and Channel 4 will continue to air shows in front of live audiences – for now.

As well as well as creating television programmes, the BBC also records and airs radio programmes like The News Quiz and The Now Show, which often require a live audience.

The corporation said: “We’re keeping the situation with our audience-based programmes under review.

“While the current government advice doesn’t necessarily prevent such programmes taking place, this is a rapidly evolving situation and we take seriously our duty of care to audiences, panellists and our staff.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15:  (L-R)  Adam Hills, Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe come alongside  Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party in a boat to ask him to be a guest on their television show 'The Last Leg' on the River Thames on June 15, 2016 in London, England.  Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, is campaigning for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in a referendum being held on June 23, 2016.  (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
The Last Leg, hosted by (L to R) Adam Hills, Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe, is one programme Channel 4 hosts which requires a live audience

Channel 4, whose programmes Countdown and The Last Leg use live audiences, also said it would be looking at advice given by Public Health England.

“We and our production partners across all of our shows are continuing to monitor the situation very closely.”

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