Movie Theaters Reopening in the Midst of COVID-19

Photo courtesy of Joshua Knox.

Photo courtesy of Joshua Knox.

It was dark, and the sound of thunder and rain completely surrounded me. All I could see was a lonely cup of water, then the rain was overpowered by a shattering stomp. Chills covered my body as the roar of a Tyrannosaurus Rex echoed throughout the movie theatre.

I had seen Jurassic Park previously, but seeing it in a movie theatre with advanced sound, picture quality, and a packed theatre made this viewing unlike any other! 

 Movie theaters–amongst the hardest hit businesses during the Corona lockdown–are slowly re-opening. They are opening with the safety guidelines followed by most places such as wearing a mask, more sanitization stations, and enforcement on social distancing.

Bigger theatre chains such as AMC have even added some extra precautions, such as reduced seating inside the theatres, upgrading their HVAC systems with superior air filters, and vacuuming carpeted areas every night with HEPA filters (which have shown to trap 99.97% of air particles).

With most of the major summer blockbusters and smaller indie films delayed until next year or later, movie theatres had to improvise to get people’s interests back.

Local theatres such as IPic and even bigger chains like AMC have started to replay older films such as Jurassic Park and Star Wars, even reducing ticket prices to spike interests. 

One of the local theatres, Marcus Elgin, has seen some increase in customers coming back to the theater.

“People have been coming back slowly but surely, and it’s awesome to see them coming back,” said operations manager Kadeem. He predicted that these conditions will continue until the holidays, even though health experts are unsure if COVID-19 will become more of an issue with the emergence of the flu season and cold weather. 

The theatres are entirely dependent on the conditions of COVID-19 and its future development; if the cases continue to drop, then movie theatres could potentially make a slow recovery.

However, if we get hit with a second wave, then it could get worse for the industry. This would be a huge misfortune, as going to a movie theatre is an experience that can not be captured at home. 

Even going to see re-releases of older films can be a whole new experience. As mentioned already, seeing it on a big screen is great, but it’s also being surrounded by people who love the film as much as you do.

Seeing Army of Darkness was such a memorable experience because I was surrounded by fans laughing and quoting the film with me! I remember the hype surrounding The Force Awakens from the last trailer a month before its release.

We talked about it in class and speculated on what would happen or what we wanted to see; some of my friends even skipped class to see it early on opening day. I still remember the chills and excitement of seeing and hearing the Star Wars logo and score on a big screen; it was unlike any movie experience I had before. Hearing those spaceships and lightsaber sounds was something only a big screen could capture! 

The release of feature films on VOD (Video on Demand) is concerning, because studios could consider this a future strategy for releasing new films due to its profitability.

Universal Studios mentioned in particular how Trolls World Tour grossed $100 million in sales, making more in three weeks than the original film’s theatrical run made in over five months. Only having a VOD option would be disappointing, as no home theatre can capture the same experience, and movie theaters would struggle to stay open. 

People’s reservations of going to a theatre are understandable. But with theatres taking the precautionary measures mentioned above and people abiding by the local and federal guidelines, the pandemic should not be an obstacle that robs us of creating memories that shape our lives.

With the success of VOD, we risk potentially losing the movie theater experience forever!