California Movie Theaters

With some states – we’re looking at you, Georgia and Texas – a-okay with reopening movie theaters this month, curiosity has cropped up regarding when other states might follow. And according to California Governor Gavin Newsom, don’t expect any California movie theaters to reopen anytime soon. Newsom says the stage to reopen movie theaters is “months, not weeks” away.

Look, we all miss movie theaters. Even someone like me, who has come to loathe the inconsiderate crowds of talkers and cell phone-checkers that populate multiplexes, is pining for the days of watching something on the big screen. But with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, reopening movie theaters anytime soon seems like a very bad idea.

And California agrees. During his daily briefing today, California Governor Gavin Newsom detailed a four-stage plan to reopen the economy. And according to Newsom, movie theaters won’t be safe to reopen until the state reaches stage 3 – which won’t be for months. Per the Sacramento Bee, here are the stages:

  • Stage 1 is the current stage, in which officials are continuing to work toward expanding testing and contract tracing, while increasing hospital surge capacity and safety measures at essential workplaces
  • Stage 2 will include the reopening of “lower-risk workplaces,” and will see the gradual opening of some workplaces, “with adaptions.” Retail and manufacturing will be among the first to reopen, Newsom said. Public spaces could also reopen and offices in which telework is not possible may reopen.
  • Stage 3 calls for the reopening of higher-risk businesses and personal services that include close physical contact, which salons, gyms, theaters, sports without live audiences, weddings and other in-person religious services.
  • Stage 4 would be the end of the stay-at-home order, which would see concerts, live-audience sports and other large events and venues able to reopen.

Stage 2 is weeks away, stage 3 is months away. Newsom didn’t give a concrete timetable about which month stage 3 might begin, which means all eyes remain on July for the time being. Warner Bros. is really hoping they can release Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in theaters on July 17, and most movie theaters – like major chain AMC – are using that film as their goalpost for the time being.

On top of this, a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll reveals that only 40% of Americans are willing to return to movie theaters without a coronavirus vaccine, and since a vaccine is likely still a long way off, that’s not great news for movie theaters, even if they do reopen in July.

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