movie theaters suing to reopen

Today in “We’re probably all doomed” news: movie theater giants AMC, Regal, and Cinemark are taking the state of New Jersey to court, claiming a First Amendment right to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. You know – that deadly pandemic that appears to be getting worse, and not better? Yeah, that one. Theater owners claim that if churches are now allowed to reopen in NJ again, movie theaters should be granted the same consideration.

Folks, let me blunt: you can’t wish the coronavirus away. It’s not something you can just “overcome” by acting strong. It’s not an idealogy. It is quite literally a deadly virus that has the power to painfully kill you. I get it: we all want this to be over. We all want to be able to go about our lives, and go out into the world, and to make and spend our hard-earned money. But as cases continue to spike across the country, it’s very hard to accept that we can all get back to business as usual anytime soon.

But hey, don’t tell that to movie theaters AMC, Regal, and Cinemark, because they’re willing to go to court to reopen sooner rather than later. In New Jersey – my home state – AMC, Cinemark, and Regal have filed a lawsuit against Governor Phil Murphy claiming they have a First Amendment right to reopen. Murphy recently signed an order stating that malls, libraries, churches, and museums could reopen, but movie theaters could not. And to be fair, I see where the movie theaters are coming from. But here’s the thing: I don’t think malls, libraries, churches, and museums should be opening now, either.

“Plaintiffs bring this action to ensure that movie theatre are treated equally with other similarly situated places of public assembly, and in order to exercise their First Amendment rights to exhibit films of significant artistic, cultural, political and popular merit,” the lawsuit states (via Variety). The suit continues: “There is no rational basis for Defendants’ distinction between, for example, places of worship and movie theatres for purposes of reopening, yet Defendants have allowed places of worship to reopen while movie theatres must remain closed, with no scheduled date for reopening.”

Again: I get where the theater giants are coming from. If churches can open, why can’t movie theaters? It’s a good question! And that’s probably why churches shouldn’t be able to reopen, either. As of now, the plan in New Jersey is for theaters to reopen under stage 3 of the state’s protocols. We’re still in stage 2. Until stage 3 arrives, gyms, indoor amusement parks, performing arts centers, and multiplexes are to remain closed.

Movie theaters are desperate to reopen again because they simply do not have the money socked away to survive such a long shutdown. The longer theaters like AMC remain closed, the more likely they are to go completely bankrupt. I sympathize, I really do. But there has to be a better solution than this. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this fun scene from the movie Outbreak.

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