Movie Theaters During COVID: Are They Safe?

Movie Theaters During COVID: Are They Safe?

For those of us who are frequent flyers to our local movie theaters, one of the more distressing, if not trivial, effects of the national lockdown has been the closing of cinemas everywhere. Highly anticipated movies were delayed or released on streaming platforms, and the beloved experience of physically going to a theater seemed to disappear completely. Even after businesses started to reopen, many people still had reservations when it came to sitting in a room with a bunch of strangers for two hours to see a movie. The question in every movie-goer’s mind during this pandemic is this: is going to a movie theater safe?

In short, a trip to the cinema is relatively safe. Of course, nothing is completely safe in the current state of the world. There are always risks. That said, as someone who was able to go to a movie theater to test the waters, the experience felt much safer than going to a restaurant or even going to school. The theater I went to for my investigation was Holiday Cinemas in Wallingford, and, with a strict set of COVID-19 protocols in place, they have done a fantastic job of ensuring their patrons’ and staff’s safety.

The first concern of any business during this pandemic is social distancing and mask protocols, both of which are employed at the movie theater. Right now, to satisfy the necessary social distancing requirements, capacity in every theater has been reduced to 30%. This allows ample spacing between individual parties of audience members, so no stranger will be near them on their trip. On top of that, unlike at restaurants, masks are required at all times when you are not eating. At a restaurant, customers are permitted to remove their masks the moment they are seated at a table, but in the theater, you need to keep it on between bites of buttered popcorn.

The concessions are another natural concern. While patrons used to be able to add butter to their own popcorn or fill their own soda cups, now that is a job for the employees. In order to keep the customers’ food and their machines clean, only the masked employees are allowed to operate, or even be near, the food and drink dispensers. That said, they still offer the same delicious food they always have. Then, in the theater itself, people are permitted to remove their masks when eating. However, most of the audience was simply reaching the popcorn under their masks and never removed them at all. This is a feat that cannot be achieved at a restaurant.

In terms of general sanitation, hand sanitizer and wipes were offered freely to patrons and staff. The staff themselves undergo daily health checks and have been trained to adhere to all of the pandemic safety regulations required by the state. All of this proves to create a very clean establishment that is certainly one of the safest experiences I have had the privilege of attending during this pandemic.

It is very important to note that during this pandemic, nothing outside of one’s house will ever be one hundred percent safe, but movie theaters are certainly making a valiant effort to get as close as possible. This effort needs to be recognized as, since everyone has been so justifiably cautious, attendance to theaters has been low. As vaccines become available to more and more people, the occasional trip to support your local movie theater would not only help ease the tensions of a very stressful period in everyone’s lives, but it would also help keep beloved movie theaters like Holiday Cinemas open. With every effort that movie theaters have made to keep movie-lovers safe, know a trip to the theater may not be nearly as dangerous as it seems.