The founder of our biggest independent cinema chain is appealing to the Stormont Executive to listen to cinema operators before implementing a new full-scale lockdown.

Michael McAdam says the Executive should establish a task force to ensure it is getting the full facts from each business sector before taking decisions which could lead to "redundancies, closures and economic misery".

"The one-size-fits-all approach is understandable but it ignores the evidence that settings such as cinemas carry a vey low risk of Covid spread," he told

"I understand that the Executive or the medical chiefs don't understand the nuance of my business or of other businesses but all I am asking is that they provide a mechanism for business-owners to feed in information before they make decisions which could force us to pull down the shutters," he said.

"I know they are really, really serious about keeping the public safe but we are equally serious, not just because we too live here and want to play our part, but because we know our businesses can't survive if our customers don't feel secure. All I am asking for is a fair chance to put our case."

The Moviehouse founder fears that any move back into lockdown could lead to the closure of cinemas which have now built back up to 35 per cent of the footfall they had pre-pandemic.

"In our venues, we have introduced hand sanitiser and, in some places, hot water handwashing. We are using computer booking to ensure social distancing and have introduced Plexiglas screens. Our customers face forward, can wear masks and are not projecting their voices. Additionally, we take your temperature to make sure you are not running a fever before you can access any of our venues. No one told me to take those measures, I took them because they ensure my customers remain safe when in my cinemas and outlets. In short, my venues are much safer venue than a pubs, restaurants or café. Indeed, they are safer than schools. In fact, I saw families returning in greater numbers from last weekend as we rolled out more family-friendly films. For me, parents are saying, if it's safe to let the kids attend school, it's safe for them to go to the cinema."

And Michael McAdam warns that if the public can't access safe venues, they will make their own entertainment in less secure environments. "It's not about money for us. It's about ensuring the business survives and that we save as many jobs as possible. We want to play our part in ensuring this society can live alongside a virus which may be with us for the next several years. And part of that survival is ensuring that people can engage safely in activities which are good for the community and good for the mental wellbeing of people."

Among the Moviehouse venues which were closed during the first Covid surge are Glengormley and Cityside. Both are now operating again with coronavirus protocols in place. Mr McAdam also runs the Odyssey Bowl bowling alley in the Titanic Quarter venue and the Jet Centre for family entertainment in Coleraine.