California To Allow Movie Theaters To Reopen In Most Counties

California counties, including Los Angeles County, could decide to reopen movie theaters as early as Friday. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Each local health officer has the authority to decide whether to move forward with relaxing restrictions on reopening theaters. While the state provides guidance on how businesses can reopen, counties decide when they occur. The new rules would limit the number of guests in a movie theater to 25% of theater capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower. Also, theaters would need to implement a reservation system to limit the number of attendees entering the theater at a time when possible. “Designate arrival times as part of reservations, if possible so that customers arrive at and enter the theater in staggered groups,” the state’s rules say.

To keep guests six feet away from others, theaters are to close or otherwise remove seats from use, which may require seating every other row or blocking off seats in a checkerboard style, in which no one is sitting directly behind other patrons. The rules would ask patrons to wear face coverings when not eating or drinking. Staff would need to be available to help usher people before the show begins and at its conclusion to reduce crowding when entering or exiting. The guidelines also suggest using disposable or washable seat covers in theaters, “particularly on porous surfaces that are difficult to properly clean. Discard and replace seat covers between each use,” the guidelines say.

Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura are among 51 California counties that will be given the option by the state to allow movie theaters to reopen. All but seven of California’s 58 counties have filed attestation paperwork to reopen their economies at an accelerated pace. Six of the counties that have not done so are in the San Francisco Bay Area – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara – and the seventh is Imperial County east of San Diego, which is facing a bad outbreak. Deadline notes that while some independently owned cinemas could open their doors again, “many notable chains won’t.”

Not only do movie theaters need more time to prep, but many have paused their leases with landlords. “Also, while a 30%-50% capacity auditorium level is doable financially for most theater owners, a 25% cap is stretching it for some,” the report adds. “Chains in California we hear aren’t reopening Friday include AMC, Regal, Cinemark (which has outlined a three-phase approach beginning June 19 in Dallas), Alamo Drafthouse, Arclight Cinemas, Laemmle, Cinepolis and Landmark.”