Britain’s redheads bid free cinema admission during national heatwave

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LONDON — As temperatures soar to dangerous highs across the UK this week, a cinema chain offers protection from the sun to a potentially vulnerable group: redheads.

“Redheads get free tickets on hottest days ever,” read a Showcase Cinemas Instagram post earlier this week. It prompted many Brits to tag their redhead friends and family in the comments so they wouldn’t miss the offer to cool off in an air-conditioned spot amid the national emergency.

The offer is for redheads only and is valid Monday through Tuesday when temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) are expected.

Research has found that people with pale skin, freckles and red hair are at greater risk of developing skin cancer because of their genes – although heat of this magnitude is dangerous for anyone. Hundreds of people have died in recent days as a devastating heatwave swept across Britain, France, Spain and Portugal.

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Unlike the United States, many sites and homes in the UK do not have air conditioning. However, most cinemas do.

“Since redheads are often more vulnerable to the sun’s rays than most, we offer them protection from the sun in our fully air-conditioned cinema screens,” Showcase said in a statement. The company told The Washington Post it looks forward to seeing “how many redheads take the opportunity.”

For the first time on record, red “extreme” heat warnings are in effect in London and parts of the UK – a country that lacks the infrastructure built to withstand intense heat waves. The heat wave has also triggered forest fires in Europe.

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Experts say the extreme weather is another reminder of man-made climate change, with some warning future summers are only going to get worse unless the world works to combat the crisis.

On social media, many hailed the idea of ​​cinemas as a positive way to help during a heat and livelihood crisis, although some branded the initiative “offensive” to the redhead community and said it unfairly singled out that group.

Lucy McCollum, a 29-year-old from Sheffield who describes herself as a “happy redhead” and has a little boy who also has red hair, said the offer would not only help those struggling with the heat, but including those who are struggling financially.

Annual inflation in the UK hit a 40-year high of 9 percent earlier this year as food and energy prices soared – a result of Brexit, tax hikes and the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the cost of living crisis, you have to take what you can get on the entertainment front,” McCollum said.

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Going to the cinema in the UK is usually expensive – especially if you want movie snacks and a deck chair. General admission tickets for adults cost around £12 ($14), although the price may vary depending on the type of film and comfort level chosen. Some tickets cost up to £23 per person ($27).

Although the offer is tempting, McCollum said she was unable to attend due to work commitments as a teacher.

Others didn’t seem to like the attention: some social media posts have pointed out that redheads are often bullied at school for their rarer hair color – and that the offer could further marginalize the community.

Sarah Jackson – a 27-year-old who goes by the name “gingerrcurls” on Instagram and who was bullied for her “crimping redhead hair” as a child – said she found the cinema’s offering “hilarious” and that she had organizers paid attention whether there was a cinema closer to her house.

“I always joke that as a ginger I can’t stand the summer because of the heat. So when I saw the showcase offering free tickets for redheads during the current heat wave, I immediately shared it with my friends and my boyfriend,” Jackson said. She has garnered thousands of followers online, particularly through posts on techniques to help people manage curly hair and products for those with paler skin and warmer hair tones.

The offer also forced some who were once redheads but are now losing their hair to wonder if they were entitled to a free ticket. “Does a ginger beard count?” wrote one person. Others debated how strict cinema could be — or whether they’d take a “strawberry blonde.”

Luke Young, 31, from Peterborough, a town in east England, was one of those reflecting on his redhead roots.

Young told the Washington Post that he did not identify as fully redheaded, but described himself as “fair-skinned” with a beard the color of a “Moroccan sunset.”

The idea is “good marketing,” Young said. “A free ticket is a free ticket.”

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