Viewers and Experts Weigh Health Risks of Theater Reopenings


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After six months of COVID-19 restrictions caused the failure and bankruptcy of multiple movie theaters, corporations have started to lift shutdowns by showing movies at limited capacity.

Movie theater corporations such as Cinemark, Regal and AMC began to reopen their doors in late August following six months of shutdowns due to COVID-19 restrictions and have recently began to show new movies.

Prior to reopening, the National Association of Theater Owners announced its new CinemaSafe protocol for corporations to follow during reopening. Regulations address mask wearing, capacity, distribution of condiments and other factors to help promote safety. 

“Wallets are tight right now, and most people have to do a cost-benefit analysis for nearly everything in their lives,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Degarabedian said in an interview with CNN Business. “While movies have traditionally been a bargain compared to other outside the home activities, price matters.” 

Due to a lack of movie releases during quarantine, the first couple weeks were reruns of old movies such as “Inception” or “Black Panther” followed by a small range of new movies like “Tenet.” Even without new movies coming out, theaters were rushing to make money through reruns after a six-month period of practically no revenue. 

Many theaters have cut down their maximum capacity and enforced social distancing by blocking off certain seats or doing reserve-only seating in order to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

“I had a really good time finally being able to go back to the theaters and watch a movie,” junior Justin Choi said. “I felt completely safe while I was in the theater; I was one of two groups that were in that screening, and we all wore masks. Overall, it still felt like a pretty normal time at the theaters.” 

Despite the precautions being taken, some experts are still concerned about the safety of attending movies due to factors such as poor ventilation and extended periods of indoor seating; even with the regulations it is hard to enforce masks and social distancing. However, extra precautions can be taken to protect viewers. 

“In this new pandemic world, moviegoers need to know that there is a consistent, science and experience-based set of health and safety protocols in place no matter what theater they visit,” president and CEO of NATO John Fithian said in a statement. 

Although there are precautions put in place, moviegoers must be responsible for their own safety by self-screening, wearing masks correctly and social distancing.

“Nothing is 100 percent safe, but I would say you’re 95 percent safe if you go to the movies [with all of the stated measures in place],” chairman of medicine at St. Joseph’s Health in New Jersey and professor of medicine at New York Medical College Dr. Robert Lahita said in an interview with Vulture.