Despite cases of coronavirus still climbing in the U.S., millions of Americans are heading back to the movie theaters again to load up on popcorn and candy and watch films on the big screen.
Movie theaters have had their doors shuttered since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but are now slowly re-opening these doors. While many patrons are excited to get back into the theaters, many have concerns that this may still not be safe.
The National Assn. of Theatre Owners (NATO), the trade group that represents cinemas, recently revealed its alternative plan nationwide for health and safety standards for sanitation, mask-wearing and other measures. The group has dubbed the plan “CinemaSafe.”
NATO had a hourlong Zoom news conference over the additional measures which included executives from AMC Theatres, Cinemark, Regal, Imax, Marcus Theaters, and two health experts.
“CinemaSafe” had been unveiled ahead of the release of Russell Crowe’s thriller “Unhinged,” the first studio film to be released nationally in theaters since the COVID pandemic began.
The film pocketed more than $4 million over the past weekend as movie theaters in Florida, Texas, Georgia and other parts of the country could safely reopen. The film played in 1,823 venues in North America, marking it the widest release yet since the pandemic hit.
According to NATO, over 300 companies, including about 2,600 individual theaters and 30,000 screens in the U.S., have signed on to the voluntary protocols. The Los Angeles Times has reported that some of the protocols include theaters making sure their HVAC systems are all working properly, with increased ventilation “whenever possible” and reducing capacity in the auditoriums to ensure social distancing.
AMC opened their doors on August 20th and has re-opened about 1,500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. The struggling theater chain has lost $561 million in its most recent quarter as revenue dropped almost 100%. To bring back movie-goers, the chain had offered a one day promotion of 15-cent tickets on its opening day.
AMC Entertainment Chief Executive Adam Aron, said during the NATO zoom conference that masks were “a subject near and dear to our heart.” He added, “We will not let them into our theaters if they’re not wearing masks, and we will not let them stay if they do not keep their masks on.”
Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Regal’s British parent company Cineworld has said in a recent interview that special expert teams have been visiting the company’s locations twice weekly to make sure safety measures are up to standard.
“We put a lot of effort, first and foremost, into the safety issues because the priority to us is the safety of our customers and our team,” said Griedinger. “There is no doubt we cannot perform at the numbers we used to have at this stage. But safety is the priority.”
So far, over 40 states have allowed movie theaters to reopen to customers, with safety measures in place, according to Variety. Arizona’s hometown theater chain Harkin’s theaters recently announced that it will open on August 28th at three locations.
“There is no question that this has been the most hard time in my 50 plus years in the business. I am so excited and so appreciative of our incredible team and tremendously loyal guests that have continued to support us through this challenging time,” said Owner Dan Harkins in a prepared statement. “I will be there opening night and cannot wait to welcome everyone back to the movies.”
Many are eager for New York to open its movie theaters, however Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not allow it. “I would say be confident in us. We’re confident we’ve enhanced our safety protocols,” said Shayla Silva to NBC New York. Silva runs upscale movie theater Cinepolis in Chelsea.
“It’s basically you come in, sit down, watch a movie and walk out. So, if you listen to the basic things Dr. Fauci says, you’re safe,” said Nicolas Nicolaou who owns Cinema Village in New York City.
There is still time for Cuomo to change his mind in time for other big movies that are releasing soon. This includes Disney’s “The New Mutants” on August 28th, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” during Labor Day weekend, Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” on October 2nd, “Black Widow” with Scarlet Johansson on November 6th, the new James Bond flick “No Time to Die” on November 20th, and Eddie Murphy’s “Coming 2 America” on December 18th.
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