drafthouse safety

When the CEO of AMC Theatres announced last week that, despite an ongoing global pandemic, he wouldn’t require AMC visitors to wear masks because he didn’t want to be “drawn into a political controversy,” the leadership behind Alamo Drafthouse theaters immediately took a stand. Alamo issued a statement promising that masks would be required in their theaters, and promised more details would be revealed about their policies this week. (AMC eventually reversed its mask policy.)

Today, Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League says he wants to make the act of visiting one of their theaters “one of the safest possible indoor activities” – specifically, he said they’re aiming to make every visit to a Drafthouse “safer than a supermarket.”

Like every other theater in the country, Alamo Drafthouses across the nation shut down in mid-March. But whereas some other theaters are already back up and running, Drafthouse drew another line in the sand and said they would not immediately reopen locations in Texas when that state’s governor began loosening coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses there at the end of April. Now Variety has several quotes from League about what people can expect when Drafthouses begin to reopen.

“We want you to feel safe,” he said. “Our driving principle has been to make the Alamo Drafthouse experience one of the safest possible indoor activities — ‘safer than a supermarket’ — and far exceed the expectations you already have for supermarkets, gyms, and restaurants. We intend to make it so that you can leave your car, make it to your seat, enjoy your food and drinks, and be able to leave having never come within six feet of another person other than when your order is delivered, and having never touched a surface other than your chair and table — both of which will be sanitized between screenings with an electrostatic fogger and disinfectant.”

That sanitization is only a small part of the new wave of protocols. Guests will be required to wear masks, except when eating and drinking. (That’s a big exception, since part of the Drafthouse appeal is the food and drink selection.) Employees will have their temperatures taken before work, wear masks and gloves, and be required to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes. All ticketing will be done online, and at least two buffer seats between groups will ensure a minimum six feet of physical distancing.

Most interestingly, though, food must be pre-ordered with tickets and additional food and drink orders cannot be made during the movie. However, guests will be able to get refills by raising an order card. This is a huge change to the way Drafthouses typically operate. Normally, if you get hungry in the middle of the movie, you can write your order on a card and an employee will unobtrusively come by to take it and then bring you your order when it’s ready. Limiting things to pre-orders should drastically reduce the amount of movement in the theater during a screening – but I imagine lots of folks who don’t read the fine print might be upset about the big alteration to the standard operating procedures. For more details about the new policies, click here.

Alamo Drafthouse will begin opening select locations in early July to hammer out the specifics of how these new procedures will work, before opening the rest of its locations and, hopefully one day, removing these procedures and getting back to normal. Now we’ll just have to see how many people are willing to take the risk of going back to theaters again – even if not every person will be eating or drinking their way through the entire movie like they would be under normal circumstances.

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