It’s been nearly two months now since going to the movies felt like a regular thing to do. In that time, cinemas, whether that’s big chains like Regal and AMC or small arthouses, have been forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, those same major companies are facing another issue after Universal might be looking to move to VOD more than the theatrical experience, causing AMC to ban all Universal titles from their theaters.
But for some smaller chains, hope could be on the horizon. Select cinemas are beginning to reopen across North America and they’ll be implementing procedures that are both familiar and foreign to ensure the safety of their movie-loving customers.
EVO Entertainment in Texas plans to open two of its locations starting Monday, May 4th. According to CEO Mitchell Roberts, they’ll feature an “airport security-style check-in.” Guests will be sent through a cordoned area where they’ll be asked if anyone in their household has had flu-like symptoms in the past two weeks. People could lie though, which is why they’re taking the checkpoint one step further, as customers will also have their temperature taken. If it reads above 100.4, they’ll not be allowed in.
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“I feel like it’s really important for our guests to come in and see what we’re doing to protect them,” says Roberts. Since no new movies are coming out any time soon though, they’ll be screening films like The Goonies and other classics to make the patrons feel like they can escape from the daily reminder of the pandemic.
“We’re looking at positive, feel-good stuff,” Roberts said. “Everyone has the same programming mantra – classic films, good, popular stuff.”
Santikos Entertainment in San Antonio is following a similar approach by showing feel-good movies and they’re also discounting tickets to $5 for adults and $3 for children. CEO Tim Handren says: “We’re operating more for psychological value than net income. That’s what theaters are for – an escape. We’re going to provide that escape.”
Of course, it’s great that these local businesses are taking what seems like proper steps to provide a safe environment for customers. Like everybody else, they just want some semblance of normalcy back in their lives.
But the big question is, is it still too soon? There’s no vaccine for the coronavirus yet and while practicing social distancing has helped in slowing down the spread, it’s not something that just magically goes away overnight.
A second wave is highly possible and could end up being worse than the initial spread of the virus. In fact, we may never go back to the way things were. Airports changed forever after 9/11 and any public area, including movie theaters, could see a similar change. We all want to escape from this, but it might have to continue to be from the comfort of our own homes.