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Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for cinemas and drive-in cinemas

Published: 3 Dec 2020
Last updated: 9 Apr 2021 - see all updates

Guidance for cinemas and drive-in cinemas on safe re-opening during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for cinemas and drive-in cinemas


Cinemas in Scotland should check whether they are permitted to open under the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Strategic Framework (updated February 2021).

This updated Strategic Framework sets out how we plan to restore, in a phased way, greater normality to our everyday lives.  It updates the original Strategic Framework to take account of important developments, including:

  • new and highly infectious strains of the virus
  • progress with the vaccination roll-out

This framework sets out our approach to outbreak management based on five levels of protection, providing graduated protections locally and/or nationally. This means that while cinemas may be able to open in areas with low infection rates, others may be required to close to help suppress the virus in areas with much higher rates.

Each area of Scotland is assigned to a COVID protection level. The protection levels, sometimes called 'tiers', run from the lowest risk level of Level 0 up to the highest at Level 4. The Strategic Framework sets out the measures to be applied under each protection level.

You can find out the COVID protection level for each local area in Scotland and get information on what you can and cannot do at each level.

Levels will be reviewed on a regular basis as our priority remains containing the spread of the virus, saving lives and safeguarding the NHS.

On 16 March, we set out an indicative date of 17 May for the reopening of cinemas and drive-in cinemas (see Coronavirus (COVID-19): timetable for easing restrictions).


By law you must not travel out of a Level 4 or Level 3 local authority area unless you have a reasonable excuse (see travel guidance and exceptions). Attendance at a drive-in cinema or other entertainment event is not a reasonable excuse.

You can find out which Level any part of Scotland is in via our postcode checker

Communications with customers

Customers are not always aware of restrictions and guidance and how these might have changed. Operators should make sure their communications with customers are open and clear so anyone considering buying a ticket is made aware of the risks and restrictions and can make an informed choice about travelling to and attending an event.

Communications with customers, whether by website, email, social media or through other forms of marketing, should make it easy to find information that sets out what Level the event is currently at on the Scottish Government framework and that travel restrictions apply where no-one should travel outside a Level 3 or 4 area unless for essential reasons (see exceptions). Attending a drive-in cinema or other live entertainment event would not be considered an essential reason.  

To keep information current,  customers communications should link to the Coronavirus postcode checker and to travel guidance.

Relevant guidance for drive-in events

This guidance is for drive-in cinemas which have film screenings only. If your event includes live performance with, for instance, musicians, actors or comedians, you should also consult Scottish Government events guidance and performing arts guidance.

Sector guidance

The UK Cinema Association has produced guidance for the re-opening of cinemas and the opening of drive-in cinemas.

The industry should read the UK Cinema Association guidance and this overview in conjunction with Scottish Government guidance on wider public health and fair work principles. This will ensure that industry guidance is applied in line with Scotland’s approach to moving out of lockdown as set out in our road map.

The industry guidance and this overview are provided as guidance only and do not amount to legal advice. Businesses and employers may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

This website has the most up-to-date advice and guidance on  COVID-19.

Further advice is available from Screen Scotland.

First published: 3 Dec 2020 Last updated: 9 Apr 2021 -