trailer screenshot of john david washington in tenet. Warner Brothers.

Regal, AMC, and Other Theater Chains to Reopen in July. But Are You Ready to Go Back to the Movies?

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The movie theater industry has been in a rough spot during the coronavirus pandemic, from big chains to independent theaters. Millions of dollars have been lost, and as public fear of the virus has gone down—in spite of surges and the fact that there is still no vaccine—things are slowly reopening. Bars, restaurants (if only for takeout), and it seems Regal, Cinemark, and AMC theaters are planning to do the same.

CNN has shared that AMC is planning to reopen theaters in July (1,000 theaters around the world) after reporting a net loss of $2.17 billion in its first quarter. The theater chain closed all its locations on March 17th, following the COVID-19 pandemic kicking off, and has remained closed since. Now they are planning to reopen to showcase Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, slated for July 17th, and Disney’s Mulan, slated for July 24th.

Adam Aron, AMC’s CEO, said in a statement that the company’s top priorities remain “the safety and wellbeing of our guests and associates,” and that they are “taking sweeping actions to preserve the long term viability of AMC Entertainment.”

Exactly how that will work remains to be seen, but they are partnering with Clorox (CLX), which will advise the company how to best make its theaters “as safe and clean as possible.” I mean, that would have been great all the time, but congrats on getting there?

Cinemark is also returning to the movie business and is already taking a loosey-goosey stance on mask wearing. According to The Wrap, the company will “encourage,” but not require its customers to wear face masks when they reopen their cinemas later this month. All of the employees will be required to mask up, however—which, again, puts all the effort on the backs of underpaid employees.

“We have been intensely focused in developing enhanced health and safety protocols, understanding that these factors will weigh heavily on the confidence and peace of mind of our employees, guests and community as we reopen our theaters,” Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said during the conference call, which was live-streamed. “[We will be] requiring all employees to wear face masks and encouraging guests to do the same.”

Encouraging is not the same as requiring, and despite the fact that the theaters will be implementing some kind of social distancing seating, there’s still the unavoidable, pandemic-unfriendly element of people being in an enclosed space together for hours at a time.

As for Regal, the other big chain that The Wrap says is planning on reopening all its theaters in the U.S. and the U.K. by July 10, they are planning to have theaters at 50% capacity, with two seats of distance between people. There will also be contactless payment at the box office and concessions with “ULV ‘Foggers’ in order to clean and sanitize each auditorium.”

Self-service concession and refills on large drinks and popcorns are suspended, and anything that requires kitchen preparation will not be available.

Regal and AMC are the two biggest theater chains in the world, and with their opening, we will have another factor potentially contributing to infection spikes.

Honestly, my feelings about this are mixed. I feel like with have gotten too lax in general about battling COVID-19, because many of us are tired, and those who have been untouched by the pandemic health-wise are anxious to get back to normal. But that is a picture that erases the actual human lives affected. In the United States, 119,197 people have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19. Black and Brown communities have been affected the hardest, and worldwide, there have been 447,108 deaths.

I get it. I’m tired of being indoors. I’m tired of wearing a mask when I ride a bike or hang out with friends. I miss going to the movies and getting that free air conditioning and over-salted popcorn, but the priority cannot be solely on the return of the things that entertain us. We have to be careful not to have another spike simply because we feel untouched—especially when, nationwide, we’re not even out of the first wave. (Here’s a good rundown on what’s happening right now.) Many have not been and until there is a vaccine, there is no “normal.”

For the employees at these theaters, I’m glad that they will have jobs again, but I’m nervous that all the anxiety about COVID-19 will fall on their doorstep if something isn’t handled perfectly. People will be going back to the movies, especially for Tenet and Mulan, but are we prepared for the collective responsibility of that return?

(via CNN, image: Warner Bros.)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.