California Lays Out Guidelines for Movie Theater Reopenings as Soon As June 12

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

A document released by the California Department for Public Health has laid out a series policies and procedures for the opening of family entertainment facilities—including movie theaters—in that state. 

The document, found in its entirety here, labels June 12 as the soonest possible “effective date” for the reopening of movie theaters, as long as they follow the listed safety regulations. Another caveat: businesses should move forward with reopening only if certain local conditions with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic have been met. Specifically, businesses should look to their county health officer, who in turn will have reviewed “local epidemiological data including cases per 100,000 population, rate of test positivity, and local preparedness to support a health care surge, vulnerable populations, contact tracing, and testing.”

Among the recommendations laid out by the California Department for Public Health are: providing temperature checks and/or symptom screenings for staff members at the beginning of their shift, providing PPE to employees and hand sanitizer for staff and customers, using disposable and single-use items where possible, and establishing physical distancing measures. Face coverings for staff members are “strongly recommended when employees are in the vicinity of others.”

A section of the document lays out additional recommendations specifically for theaters. These include limiting capacity per theater to a maximum of 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is lower; configuring customer flow to avoid the “crossflow of traffic” as patrons enter and leave the theater; and, “if possible,” designating arrival times along with ticket reservations, so customers’ arrival at the theater is staggered.

Theaters are also directed to “consider using disposable or washable seat covers,” to be replaced after each use. The document recommends that masks should be worn by patrons “when not eating or drinking. At a minimum, face coverings should be worn when entering and exiting theaters, when obtaining refreshments at the concession stand, and whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom had not yet made a comment on the theater reopening timeline.

Several states—including Texas, Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma, and South Carolina—have allowed theaters to reopen, though Texas is the only one that’s seen anything resembling a wide-spread return to the movies. Chains Santikos Entertainment, Star Cinema Grill, EVO Entertainment, Showbiz Cinemas, Strike + Reel, and Cinergy Entertainment have all opened select locations over the last six weeks. Cinemark, the third largest chain in North America, will open five cinemas in the Dallas Fort Worth area on June 19 and plans to have all its locations—including 67 in California—open by July 10, in time for Warner Bros.’ July 17 release of Tenet. Cinemark recommends, though does not require, that its patrons wear masks.