Movies | August 22, 2020 1:04 pm

Here Are the New Coronavirus-Era Rules of Going to the Movies

A new set of guidelines seeks to make moviegoing safer

Movie theater
How will moviegoing change in the near future?
Tom Barrett/Unsplash

There’s something about seeing the right movie in a theater that can be a transformative experience. For obvious reasons, that’s been an experience that’s been in short supply lately. But eventually, some cinemagoers will again head back to see movies on a big screen. Maybe Christopher Nolan’s Tenet will be what finally pulls them back to a movie theater; perhaps it’s something else.

A new article by Chris Lindahl at IndieWire explores the steps theater owners are taking to make their spaces safer. The CinemaSafe plan comes from the National Association of Theater Owners (or NATO, not to be confused with the other NATO), and comes with the acknowledgement that it isn’t without risk.

“I think the specific risk is yet to be quantified and time will pan out on that,” said Dr. Joyce L. Sanchez of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

What does the CinemaSafe plan include? Much of it will come as no surprise: mandatory masks for attendees and employees, and social distancing in lobby areas and in theater seating.

Air filtration is another hallmark of the plan; those attending movies in theaters making use of CinemaSafe will also see a lot of hand sanitizer made available.

One particular wrinkle comes from the handling of concessions. The CinemaSafe website offers this guideline: “Theaters will eliminate communal food and condiments that requires shared serving utensils or equipment.” That might mean an end to customizing the butter on your popcorn or creating your own soda flavors, if you’re so inclined. It’s not specified if people from the same household can still share food — though it’s also unclear how this would be enforced.

One alarming issue brought up by the IndieWire article and not addressed in the reopening plan: what happens when a customer reacts badly to a mask mandate? Unfortunately, recent weeks have brought a host of accounts of people reacting badly, even violently, when told to wear a mask.

The CinemaSafe plan does offer a lot of specificity at a welcome time, but there are also more than a few things left to be determined. But that’s par for the course right now, as there are few reopening plans that haven’t required some adjustment.

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