SoCal theaters reopening after five-month shutdown

By Coco Chica | @cocogonzx

The nation’s major theater chains — AMC, Regal and Cinemark — are resuming business after a five-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a new set of cleaning protocols in place, theaters are aiming to ensure the safety of their customers and employees, despite persisting worries about the cinemas reopening too soon.

In California, select movie theaters in nine counties — including San Diego and San Francisco — have begun reopening. Other counties, including Los Angeles, are waiting to see a decrease in COVID-19 cases before proceeding with its reopening plans.

According to The New York Times, theater companies are desperate to start selling tickets again as they are experiencing a 76% decline in their $1.8 billion sales this year compared to last year. With anticipated movies — such as Tenet and The New Mutants — being released, some theaters are undergoing major changes to ensure safety and lure movie goers back to the big screen.


 AMC Entertainment announced it would have around 140 theaters reopened by Sept. 4, bringing 70% of its locations across the country back into operation.

Its reopening plan — which includes improved cleaning protocols and social distancing standards — was created in consultation with Dr. Joseph Allen, a health expert at Harvard School of Public Health. AMC also signed a partnership with Clorox to sanitize theaters in preparation of reopening.

According to its newly adapted Safe and Clean policy, every AMC theater will now require all guests and employees to wear masks at all times. Masks will also be sold for one dollar to those that do not own one. To enforce social distancing standards, seat separations will also be implemented, while the maximum capacity will be cut to 40% or less for each auditorium. Condiment stations will be removed and condiments will only be available by request, along with the installation of plexiglass shields to separate customers and employees. AMC’s air-filtration systems will also be improved for better air circulation.

On its Aug. 20 reopening day, AMC offered retro ticket prices of 15 cents with discounted food items to celebrate its 100-year anniversary.

Griffin Wilsey, a fourth-year hospitality management student who regularly visited the AMC Glendora 12 theater, shared his expectations for movie theaters reopening in the area. “I am looking forward to the theaters finally opening up. It’s where I used to go every week to enjoy a new movie and relax with my friends,” said Wilsey. “With the new sanitation policies and the standard social distancing rules enforced, I do feel safe returning to the theaters once they open.”


 Regal reopened its doors to customers with discounted tickets as well, along with health and safety measurements provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The new policy requires employees to wash their hands every 30 to 60 minutes depending on their roles. Registers will now be closed to maintain social distancing, which brings a new system where guests will be able to purchase concession items from a limited menu from the company’s app. Refill stations on drinks and popcorn will also be suspended temporarily to maintain sanitation levels up to standards. Similar to AMC, it will also enforce other health regulations — such as the use of masks, limited capacity and seat separations.

“This year, although virtual, will be a challenge. So, getting some entertainment from the theaters reopening is something I look forward to,” said Connor Wick, a fourth-year business administration student. “I trust that movie theaters are taking the right precautions to keep us customers safe in a sanitized environment.”

Some students, however, still think it is a risk to reopen theaters this soon, especially with people ignoring social distancing and group gatherings recommendations from the CDC. “I personally will not be attending theaters any time soon,” said Jonathan Rodriguez, a second-year construction engineering student. “It’s a risk, and I won’t be missing out on anything that I can’t watch at home.”


Cinemark has reopened more than half of its locations since mid-August. Now joining AMC and Regal with its reopening plans, Cinemark will use sanitizing products certified by the Environmental Protection Agency that are known to be effective in eliminating COVID-19, according to its website. Most Cinemark theaters are reopened with a 50% capacity, while locations with higher risk are capped at 25%.

In addition, restaurants, kitchens and concession stands will be required to be thoroughly sanitized at least every 30 minutes to ensure the safety of employees and customers. Mandatory wellness check-ins will also be mandatory prior to every employee’s shift.

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