Updated: Jun 14, 2021
Avital Uram and Shira Dorff
Movie theaters such as AMC and Regal were on the brink of closing down last year. However, there’s some encouraging news — the CDC has given the ‘OK’ to bring movie theaters back across America. The rules of how to do so vary by different states. Currently in Pennsylvania, the maximum capacity for a movie theater is 25%. Yet, in places like Texas, Alaska, and Wisconsin, the maximum capacity is 100%. In Florida, Idaho, and Ohio, the rules just say that the theaters must make sure to maintain social distancing.
Many movie theaters have been using protocols derived from public health officials. These protocols include maintaining social distancing, requiring masks at all times except when eating, and making sure no one with symptoms of coronavirus enters. The goal of most movie theaters is to keep everyone safe, whether that means enforcing the rules for customers or making sure that employees keep things clean. At Regal Theaters, the employees are required to monitor the auditoriums to make sure everyone is following the rules. Although the precautions are helpful, certain things are unavoidable. Since there are no windows in theaters, air is unable to circulate. This can cause many issues, especially because people are eating inside. If anyone happens to cough or sneeze while eating their food, the spit particles stay in the air for a long time, and patrons are watching movies that are usually an hour to three hours.
While it seems as though there are some factors concerning movie theaters that are unsafe, some health professionals say otherwise. According to Dr. David F. Goldsmith, a public health professor and expert in epidemiology, going to the movie theater is definitely safer than going to a mall or a restaurant because no one is facing each other while eating and the crowds are smaller than the typical crowd at a mall. And the social aspect of theaters is important too. As Abby Gober ‘26 states, “Movie theaters are still needed because they provide an amazing experience for you, your friends, and your family. It is also a bonding experience.”
Regardless of whether and how the movie theaters reopen, are streaming services going to steal a lot of their revenue? To an extent, probably. Due to COVID-19 closures, movie producers have had to find other ways to display their work. Still, Hollywood actually prefers to release movies via movie theaters rather than streaming services. For one thing, movies make more money via ticket sales than when someone rents the movie off of Amazon Prime. And it isn’t just Hollywood that prefers movie theaters -- so does the public. According to Evan Berman ‘26, “Movie theaters are still important because there is a certain feeling that you have when you go out to watch a movie in the theaters, rather than sitting at home watching one where you spend most of your day. It is [also] important to keep movie theaters running because they do provide jobs, not just to adults but also to kids.” Scout Spivack ‘27 agrees, saying, “I would want to [watch a movie in a theater] because it’s not the same as watching a movie at home. It’s a whole different experience.” While Spivack prefers watching in theaters, she understands the safety risks, noting, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable [going to the movies right now] because there is no air circulation, but it’s not necessarily more dangerous than other places, like some schools that are eating lunch inside facing each other and everything, so it’s a bit safer than doing other activities.”
There is no doubt that when the pandemic is over, people of all ages will be filling up every seat in theatres. I think we can all agree that watching a movie at home will never compare to watching a movie in a theatre.