ANYONE who loves going to the movies must be feeling pretty sorry for cinemas at the moment.

The lockdown has been relaxed and people can once again see films on the big screen.

But as well as the summer being a traditionally quiet time for the pictures, it is natural for potential visitors to be in two minds.

As part of new rules around Covid-19 introduced on August 8, masks have to be worn in indoor spaces including cinemas.

And it is something that might put off even the most devoted film buff. Will you feel relaxed while wearing a mask and having coronavirus precautions in the back of your mind.

Because, after all, that big screen immersion is what you are paying for – and cinema tickets do not come cheap.

So I spent the afternoon at Cineworld Warrington to see what the 'new normal' is like.

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The first thing that is very different is the visiting the website and picking a film. As you can imagine, new releases are sparse.

A lot of big movies have been pushed back in response to box office numbers plummeting while Disney is taking its live action remake of Mulan out of cinemas altogether to put it on its digital Disney+ platform.

The result is a lot of classics being dusted off for the big screen such as Back to the Future and Star Wars alongside children's films and new movies like the Russell Crowe road rage thriller, Unhinged, that I opted for.

Cineworld is also screening a number of Christopher Nolan films in the run-up to the director's new movie, Tenet, coming out later this month.

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Moments later an email popped up on my phone – confirming my booking and seat number – and when I entered the cinema I was able to use that as my ticket meaning I was able to keep contact with staff to a minimum.

Admittedly it did feel strange entering the building for the first time since March. Not so much because I had a mask on but because it was eerily quiet. Staff outnumber customers in the foyer at times.

This was summer in mid-week. It was never going to be rammed but it still felt particularly quiet.

There is hand sanitiser at convenient points and a one-way system and you can still get the usual drinks and snacks from the kiosk.

I found this a little confusing considering the rules around keeping a face covering on.

But you can remove your mask to eat and drink and I was advised by a staff member that you can generally take it off while watching the film as long as you put it back on while moving around the building.

This was a relief as my glasses steaming up while watching the film might have ruined the immersion a bit.

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Another thing to consider is you have to be more prompt when getting to your seats now as there are less films coming out and hence less adverts.

To ensure social distancing, a minimum of two empty seats are required either side of any occupied seats but this was not a concern when I watched Unhinged – as there were just three of us in the room.

More than any odd feelings I had about wearing a mask, it was a stark reminder of the huge and unprecedented challenges cinemas are facing at the moment.

The silver screen has been a huge part of my life. I used to go around two times a week before I became a dad and before the pandemic I enjoyed introducing my six-year-old to the magic of Disney Pixar films.

So it made me feel sad to see cinema so ghostly quiet – albeit for completely understandable reasons.

It is also clear that the Time Square cinema is doing its very best. Cineworld's website mentions an enhanced cleaning programme has been implemented to keep visitors safe and raise confidence and it was spotless from what I could see.

Staff were also friendly and helpful throughout.

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When I left the cinema, I glanced across to the new Warrington Market. The plush glass frontage gleamed in the sun and I instantly saw the potential for such vibrancy in Time Square.

The timing of the coronavirus crisis has been devastating for the development and I hope the big movie of the summer – Christopher Nolan's mind-bending Tenet – encourages many to finally return.

So what about Unhinged? Well, it was a cat and mouse film that had some genuinely intense and scary moments in it.

But with only three of us in the room, something was missing – part of cinema is the shared experience that indisputably adds to the atmosphere.

That's where we all come in and so if you feel safe going to see a film I would urge you to give a try.