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The future of movie theaters amid COVID-19

Darvin Nelson, Features Editor

Going to the movies is one of those activities that require being around strangers for an extended period of time, so it doesn’t seem like the best idea in the midst of COVID-19. The coronavirus has threatened the existence of movie theaters all over the world, forcing many to pause their admission.

With the average theater seating as many as 200-300 people, protective measures had to be taken in order to decrease the spread of the virus. Some theaters even cut their seating capacity in half. American Multi-Cinema (AMC), Regal, and Cineplex have decided to half their seating capacity in all U.S. and Canadian theater locations, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The global box office is expected to lose $7 billion this year. With March, April, and May included, lost revenue would reach a total of $17 billion (Not including suspended productions).

The AMC C.E.O. and President, Adam Aron, released a message regarding the the status of AMC theaters:

“To our valued A-List members, AMC Stubs members, and guests,

If you are like me, your email inbox has been flooded by communications from companies detailing their responses to the coronavirus. Before I share with you what we are doing at AMC Theatres, I want to take a moment to share with you an optimistic thought.

The challenge that this outbreak represents to you, and to your family, friends and community is likely not similar to anything you have seen before. All of us currently find ourselves having to process our way through uncertainty, understandable anxiety and heightened risk. At some point though, hopefully sooner rather than later, the world will return to normal. Throughout history, people have always risen to meet whatever challenges have been thrown their way — usually emerging stronger than ever.

What is most important now is that you stay safe and healthy. To that end, here is what AMC is doing to help ensure the safety and health of our moviegoers and theatre teams.

Earlier today, AMC announced our detailed plan to ensure a clean and healthy movie-watching environment for you at our U.S. theatres. Most importantly, we have taken bold nationwide action to encourage ‘social distancing.’

LIMITING SEAT CAPACITY IN EVERY AMC AUDITORIUM

  • To give you more empty space around you within our theatres, we are capping ticket availability to 50% of the normal seating capacity for every showtime in every auditorium at all AMC theatres nationwide. Once we hit 50% of an auditorium’s capacity, movie screenings will show as being Sold Out, even though by definition there will be a large number of unfilled seats. This will begin Saturday, March 14, and for now, will continue until April 30.
  • For those AMC auditoriums with more than 500 seats, we will further reduce bookings to a maximum of 250 people in any case.
  • And, it goes without saying that AMC is actively complying with all current and future federal, state and local authorities’ directives on social gathering.

ENHANCED THEATRE CLEANING

  • AMC theatre teams are following AMC’s stringent health and safety cleaning protocols, which include that every auditorium is thoroughly cleaned between each and every showtime.
  • In addition, AMC has instituted enhanced cleaning protocols, which ensure that at least once per hour within an AMC building, the theatre team is cleaning high-touch point areas, including: kiosks, counter tops, restroom areas, glass, handrails and doorknobs.

GUIDANCE FOR GUESTS AND THEATRE STAFF

  • AMC has mandated that any theatre associate who feels ill is excused from work and should not come to the theatre.
  • We urge all potential guests to stay at home and seek medical assistance if they are not feeling well.

As you may know, AMC Theatres was founded in 1920. For more than 100 years, we’ve taken great pride in making smiles happen every day at our movie theatres around the country. As we enter our second century, AMC remains firmly committed to offering you, as one of our most valued guests, a clean and healthy environment every time you come to enjoy movies at our theatres.”

Regal has announced that they will be opening in July 10 and will be making similar changes to their theaters:

“Regal announces plans for the reopening of theatres starting Friday, July 10. Reopening plans include a wide range of new health and safety measures based on guidelines provided from the CDC and other public health organizations. The plan also includes safety measures based on feedback received from employees and moviegoers they have deemed most important for their return. Regal will also provide new contactless payment options and innovative sanitizing methods including:

  • Contactless payment. Along with the ability to purchase tickets in advance on the Regal mobile app, guests will now have the ability to purchase concession items from the app.
  • ULV Foggers. Employees will sanitize every auditorium and seat after each movie using new electrostatic ‘fogger’ equipment. This form of deep sanitization is highly effective in disinfecting all materials with a non-toxic formula that is fast drying.

Along with the above procedures, each theatre will sanitize high-contact points on an increased schedule and use floor markers throughout the building to assist with social distancing. Additionally, the following safety measures that cover the entire moviegoing experience will be implemented, providing a safe venue for employees and guests:

REGAL EMPLOYEES

  • Regal employees will undergo daily health screenings including temperature checks where mandated.
  • Employees will be required to wash hands at minimum every 30 to 60 minutes, dependent on job role.
  • Where required by local governance, all employees and guests will wear masks.

THE LOBBY

  • Greeters will be located in the lobby to assist guests with new procedural changes.
  • Guests will be encouraged to proceed to their auditorium as soon as possible, and exit the theatre in a timely manner at the conclusion of their movie
  • Wall mounted sanitizer dispensers will be available on either side of the main entrance.
  • Arcade games and vending machines will remain closed. Additionally, water fountains will not be available for use.

THE CONCESSION STAND

  • Every other register will be closed to maintain social distancing.
  • A reduced menu offering will be temporarily available
  • Self-service condiment stands will be closed.
  • Refills on large drinks and popcorn will be suspended.
  • Locations featuring diners, restaurants and in-theatre ordering will have these services temporarily suspended.
  • Locations with bars will remain open for walk-up service only.

THE AUDITORIUM

  • Where required by state or county mandate, auditorium capacities will be reduced to 50%.
  • Our reservation system will maintain two empty seats between groups (1 seat at recliner locations) to maintain proper social distancing throughout the movie.
  • At theatres where performances are non-reserved, you will be requested to leave two seats between groups.
  • Group sizes will only be limited where required by a state or county mandate.”

Sun-Ray Cinema, located in 5 Points here in Jacksonville, provides a service called “OnDemand,” that allows people to rent out the theater. 

Courtesy of Jacksonville Daily Record.

“We are absolutely still continuing with Sun-Ray On Demand, though we moved our end date up to July 10.  Studios are not releasing any new content till the end of July and our On Demand program allows patrons to rent the theater (affordably) and dip their toe back into a movie theater with only friends and family members. It also allows our staff to get the cinema wheels rolling again.”

Rates start at $95 per screening with a 16 person cap. Concessions such as beer, wine, and popcorn will be available. You can call or email them to begin planning here: (904)-703-4528 or [email protected].

Even though some theaters might reopen their doors, people may not come rushing in. The spread of coronavirus is still prevalent, so many are still being cautious and avoiding unnecessary gatherings and travel. Hopefully,when COVID-19 levels are low and a vaccine is acquired, people will gradually become more eager to go to movie theaters and enjoy a true cinematic experience.

___

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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The future of movie theaters amid COVID-19