Movie Theaters Reopen

Some cautiously head back to theaters amid pandemic, while others remain reluctant to return


Isabella Odom, Staff Writer

Local movie theaters such as Tinseltown, Movie Tavern and the Rave reopened their doors to customers again in late August after closing for months because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some movie buffs couldn’t wait to return, but others are still skeptical about going back to a potential COVID-19 breeding ground. 

Junior Faith Milligan had COVID-19 last summer and believes that going to movie theaters poses a health risk that isn’t worth reopening them for.

“People sitting there in an enclosed room for two hours with their masks off just doesn’t seem like a good idea,” Milligan said. 

The National Association of Theater Owners released eight pages of safety guidelines for reopening theaters, and Cinemark, the parent company of both Tinseltown and Rave theaters, additionally released a list of regulations for its theaters. These guidelines include details of Cinemark theaters’ safer air circulation system, staggered show times,  contactless payments and other measures meant to ensure customer safety. However, Milligan wonders how well those guidelines will be followed. 

“I think that it’s going to take a lot and that [workers] are going to get lazy,” Milligan said.             

Others were more than eager to get back to the theaters, such as junior Chris Herrera, who has already gone three times. However, when he was there, he said that the theaters were almost empty, which took away from the normal movie theater experience.

“You’re used to going to the movies to eat and watch the movie with other people… and the audience reacts,” Herrera said. “[Getting to go back] wasn’t as fun. It felt off, but it was still nice to get to go back.”

Because of the reopenings, theater staff are having to report to work, and despite the circumstances, Tinseltown staff seem to be just as willing to be there as their customers.

“I think that everybody was just so eager to get back that they didn’t care what kind of guidelines we had,” Tinseltown manager Caleb Heidelberg said.

Tinseltown workers are required to wear gloves at all times. When a customer purchases a ticket and chooses a seat, the rows above and below, in addition to the two seats next to them, become blocked off. Seats are also thoroughly sanitized after each movie showing.

While many measures are being taken to ensure theaters are able to remain open, some are already having to close down again.

Cineworld announced Oct. 5 that its 663 theaters in the U.S. and Britain are going to be temporarily re-closed. This includes Regal Cinemas, two of which are in Little Rock. This shutdown comes after the delay of the release of “No Time to Die,” the most recent James Bond film, one of the many movie releases pushed back due to the pandemic.  

The limited number of new movies in theaters along with unwilling customers are what pushed Cineworld to ultimately make the decision to close its theaters.  As of now, Cinemark and AMC theaters still plan to remain open.

There will be those who fear public places like movie theaters in such unprecedented times.  But, Heidelberg says that current theater-goers have been very compliant with the regulations they must follow if they are inside the theaters. And, as long as these guidelines are enforced and theaters are open, people such as Herrera will keep going back to watch more.

“It’s not as exciting,” Herrera said. “But as a high school student, you’re probably in more danger going to school than going to the movies.”