Movie theaters cautiously re-open, with health precautions to reassure movie-goers

Are you ready to return to an enclosed movie auditorium to sit with masked strangers through 2.5 hours of Christopher Nolan’s big-screen mind- bender, Tenet? Is it as safe as, say, a flight from New York to Chicago?

In 44 states, theater owners are reopening with health procedures including mandatory masks and social distancing. Six states (including the biggest movie markets) still forbid theaters to open (New York, California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland and New Mexico).

[ Movie showtimes today in 25 American cities ]

The country’s four biggest movie chains – AMC Entertainment, Regal Cinemas, Cinemark and Marcus Theaters – have adopted common safety standards to reassure in-person movie audiences.

They include:
  • mandatory wearing of masks and frequent hand-washing by theater staff
  • mandatory face coverings for movie patrons (except under 2-year-olds). Moviegoers may remove their masks only when eating or drinking. Theater staff will be trained to refuse entry to anyone not wearing a mask
  • limited seating — between 40% – 50% of capacity — to achieve social distancing between strangers
  • enhanced cleaning, hand sanitizer widely available, and disinfection of theater auditoriums between showings
  • no communal food or condiment stations
  • plexiglass partitions and
  • air-filtration systems in good working condition, preferably enhanced
  • contact-less tickets (especially mobile ticketing) instead of paper tickets

Individual states and localities are imposing their own restrictions.

California’s rules, which go into effect today, will allow theaters in lower-risk counties (now including San Francisco and San Diego) to open first at 25% of capacity. Risk levels will be reviewed every Tuesday. As risk decreases they can open to 50% of capacity.

AMC will open in Arizona September 3.