california Movie Theaters

California movie theaters could start to re-open as soon as this weekend. Theaters across the country have remained shut since coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns were imposed in mid-March, but with studios gearing up to release big-budget tentpoles like Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in theaters by next month, there is pressure on movie theaters to get back into operation. California’s Department of Public Health has proposed new strict guidelines that could begin the re-opening of California theaters at 25% capacity by June 12.

Variety reports that movie theaters in California may start re-opening as soon as June 12 at 25% capacity, per proposed guidelines by the state’s Department of Public Health.

The department issued the guidelines Monday, outlining how the number of attendees would be limited to 25% of theater capacity, or a maximum of 100 attendees, as well as implement a reservation system for the number of attendees in a theater, turn off public drinking water fountains, and reconfigure seats to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet. The rules also would require face coverings to be worn when entering and exiting the theater, obtaining refreshments at the concession stands, and whenever social distancing can’t be maintained.

“This may require seating every other row or blocking off or removing seats in a ‘checkerboard’ style (use each row but make sure no one is directly behind other patrons) so that distances are maintained in all directions,” the department said. “Members of the same household may be seated together but should maintain at least six feet of distance from other households,” the new rules read.

California Governor Gavin Newsom hasn’t yet made a decision on the proposed guidelines, which were submitted as part of family entertainment rules. Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in California since the state has begun to re-open, but California theaters are a key market of the U.S. box office representing — with New York — roughly roughly 14-15% of the domestic annual gross over 52 weeks. The potential re-opening of California theaters follows NATO’s report expecting 90% of worldwide theater to be open by July and national theater chain Cinemark releasing its re-opening guidelines.

If California theaters were to start re-opening this weekend, it would put them on track to be mostly or fully operational by the time Tenet opens in July, but it doesn’t bode well for the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state, which have only been exacerbated by the state’s re-opening of businesses and lifting of lockdown rules.

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