Movie Theaters Could Reopen Soon Under New Federal Guidelines

Movie theaters across the globe have shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of many industries hit hard in recent months. However, a new series of federal guidelines released by the Trump Administration provides a potential pathway to reopening U.S. theaters in the near future, albeit with some major limitations.

As reported by Variety, the White House has issued a three-part plan dubbed “Opening Up America Again,” one that offers a series of benchmarks for states and cities to follow as they begin reopening shuttered businesses. These benchmarks call for a clear downward trend in new cases of COVID-19 infections, as well as cases with general flu-like symptoms, and for hospitals to be able to treat COVID-19 patients without unduly straining resources. Once those benchmarks are met within a 14-day period, these regions can begin implementing a three-part strategy for phasing out their social quarantine measures.

Under Phase One, movie theaters, sports arena, churches and other “large venues” will be allowed to reopen, though they’ll have to follow “strict physical distancing protocols” for groups of ten or more people. Phase Two relaxes these physical distancing restrictions, with Phase Three further loosening them to “limited physical distancing protocols.”

So what does this actually mean as far as the movie-going experience? Based on these guidelines, we’d guess theaters will be asked to leave a certain number of seats empty in order to create space between moviegoers. It’ll likely fall on state and local authorities to decide what exactly constitutes proper physical distancing, as the Opening Up America Plan is merely a series of guidelines, not federal law. Nor does the plan offer a set timetable of when cities and states should begin reopening.

Still, this does offer hope that life may begin to return to some semblance of normal by this summer. Hollywood has all but ground to a halt, with Marvel’s Black Widow and countless movie and TV productions put on hiatus and most movie theaters shut down since March. AMC Theaters has been hit especially hard, as the company may be facing bankruptcy in the near future. The one silver lining is that drive-in theaters have been experiencing a surge in popularity.

Will you be headed back to the movie theater this summer? Let us know what you think of these new guidelines in the comments below.


Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.

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