|▶American Movie Theaters Expect to Reopen Slowly (2020-06-05)|
American movie theater operators hope to fully reopen their businesses across the United States by late July. The theaters were forced to close last month to slow the coronavirus spread.
Operators are planning for a slow reopening. They aim to open some theaters in parts of the U.S. where infection numbers are dropping.
The limited business could begin as early as mid-June, said Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Association of Theater Owners. However, he said the timing of the reopening is not decided yet and will depend on guidance from health officials.
Hollywood production companies are unlikely to release big-budget films during a limited reopening of theaters. Blockbusters such as Walt Disney Company’s Mulan and Wonder Woman 1984 from Warner Brothers are currently planned for nationwide release in late July and August.
One issue the movie industry faces is whether the public will feel safe and at ease about returning to theaters.
“There are two schools of thought,” Corcoran said. “People will be very tense and careful and nervous, or people will just be desperate to get out of the house. It’s going to probably be a mixture.”
During their early weeks back in business, theaters likely will show old movies, or films that were playing in March when theaters closed, Corcoran said.
That could mean showing a beloved musical such as Grease or a series of movies like Back to the Future or Harry Potter, said Brock Bagby, a top official with B&B Theatres. The Missouri-based company operates theaters in seven states.
Movie theater companies are considering special efforts to get people back into theater seats. Ideas include audience costume competitions linked to Harry Potter or serving butterbeer, Potter’s favorite drink, at theaters, Bagby said. But, he added “sad or very heavy dramas” are not part of the plan.
“We want the movies we bring back to bring joy to people,” Bagby said.
Operators also are debating how to demonstrate new safety measures they establish for reopening, such as increased cleaning. Corcoran questions if seeing the measures in action will make the public more at ease or less. He also said safety measures may differ among theaters depending on local guidance.
Bagby said B&B Theaters will establish social distancing rules if health officials advise it. Several days before closing in March, the company cut the number of permitted theater visitors by 50 percent. Bagby said the theaters had no problems carrying the measure out. He said some showtimes sold out at half-full.
[April 17, 2020]