Safety at the Cinemas: When Will it be Safe to Return?


Movie theaters have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Photo courtesy of ABC7 New York.

-Nick Barrieau

For most of us, the silver screen has become a distant but fond memory from a pre-pandemic world. Lining up for a blockbuster movie premiere and sitting back with friends and family in a popcorn littered theater, while being serenaded by crying children is starting to seem not so out of reach. Of course, it is possible to go to movie theaters still, but many viewers have stayed away due to the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 and the scaled back viewing experience. FSU film major Jonah Perlow stated, “Personally I haven’t been to any movie theaters since they reopened. Mainly because there haven’t been any movies to draw my eye. However, I do work at a theater and it’s reopened so I’m curious to see what safety measures are being put into place for both staff and attendants.” Perlow went on to say, “I do think that the theater in theory should be safe, it’s just if people are eating concession food and their masks are down, then I’d be a bit freaked out. But hopefully by then and by the time I’m working I’ll be half or fully vaccinated.”

Many smaller theater chains have suffered a fate similar to that of many other small and large businesses alike: closure. Even AMC was on the verge of bankruptcy before being saved by a $917 million dollar cash infusion by investors. Junior film major, Jacob Barnes stated, “Everything since the pandemic goes on a streaming service right away, which is really killing the local owned theaters. In a post-covid world, why go pay money for expensive tickets and expensive food and have a crying baby nearby or people talking on their phones, when the same exact movie is immediately uploaded to a streaming service in your own house? These services, progressed by the pandemic, are bypassing an entire movie-experience industry that was once essential. An infamous theater, the Cinerama Dome in LA just got permanently shut down because of the pandemic. If the Cinerama Dome can close, then the small places like Cinemaworld [in Leominster] have to be next.”

As the vaccine continues to rollout across the nation and the world, it will only be a matter of time before it is safe enough for people to decide to return to a classic pastime from before the pandemic. Junior, Joey Phillipo said that he would be more likely to go to theaters after receiving his vaccine. “Initially I would probably wear a mask the whole time as well. I would be more inclined. I think it could be weird to wear a mask for a whole movie, that could get uncomfortable.” 

When shutdowns first occurred, many movie productions ended up being delayed, which means that this upcoming summer and fall release window will be packed to the brim with blockbusters. Just a small taste of upcoming movies include “Black Widow”, “Cruella”, “Mortal Kombat”, “In The Heights”, “Free Guy”, “Space Jam: A New Legacy”, “F9”, “The Suicide Squad”, “A Quiet Place 2”, and Pixar’s “Luca”. Of course, with the pandemic came the ease of access of movies coming straight to services such as Disney + and HBO Max along with theaters, and many upcoming movies throughout 2021 will be still be coming to streaming services as well. Movie theaters offer a somewhat pricey outing tailor-made to maximize the viewing experience, however streaming allows subscribers to enjoy those same movies with a lesser overall viewing experience from the comfort of their homes. For most, watching in theaters has become a waiting game and a gamble, but the more time passes the safer it will become. For the most part, students at FSU feel that the theater experience is technically safe, however they wouldn’t go just yet.