The nation’s moviegoing business is coming back to life following a three-month hiatus imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of locations open in North America as of Friday totals 714, including 275 drive-ins, according to Comscore. That’s a gain of nearly 40% from a week ago when the total was 511.
Texas has by far the most locations open with 45, followed by Iowa with 29, Utah with 20, Florida with 18, Ohio with 16, California with 15, and Kentucky, Tennessee and Wisconsin with a dozen each. Delaware has the highest percentage of locations open at 33% (four of 12), followed. by Utah at 24% (20 of 83) and Iowa at 22% (29 of 130).
Most of the California locations are drive-ins but the Theatre Box multiplex in the San Diego’s Gaslamp District re-opened on Friday with the state’s new social distancing requirements in place. Capacity is limited to 25% and face masks are required. The facility decided to offer $5.99 discount tickets on its first day. In addition to films that have been playing for months such as “Trolls World Tour” and “The Hunt,” the multiplex is also showing revivals of “Wonder Woman” and “The Dark Knight.”
We are thrilled to announce the official reopening of our movie theatre on Friday, June 12th! Enjoy classic films like Dark Night & Wonder Woman+ new releases like #TrollsWorldTour while enjoying your favorite @SugarFactory treats! For a limited time, movie tickets are only $5.99 pic.twitter.com/crRz3lXFwR
— Theatre Box San Diego (@TheatreBoxSD) June 11, 2020
The California Department of Public Health announced on June 8 that it had enacted guidelines for movie theaters to reopen that could go into effect Friday, as long as the individual county’s health department signed on following reviews of local epidemiological data and local preparedness to support a health care surge, vulnerable populations, contact tracing and testing. About 500 of the nation’s 5,400 theater locations are in California.
But the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has not agreed to the new rules this week, meaning that movie theaters in the world’s movie capital of Los Angeles are still a few weeks away from turning on the lights. Los Angeles-area operators say they are busy planning to welcome moviegoers back but they’ll probably need until the end of June at the very least to get all the details sorted out once the okay is given by the country public health department.
“We will probably need three to five weeks before we’re able to open again, given the time we’ll need to re-hire staff, address supply chain issues and product availability,” said Greg Laemmle, co-owner of the eight-location Laemmle chain, which specializes in arthouse titles.
Theaters had been prepping to be open in time for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” on July 17, but Warner Bros. announced Friday that it had pushed back “Tenet” two weeks. Laemmle said he had not made a decision yet on showing Sony’s romantic comedy “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” which was recently set for a July 10 nationwide launch.
AMC, the nation’s top chain, said this week that it plans to resume operations in July although it hasn’t given a specific date.
Charles S. Cohen, owner of the 49-location Landmark chain, told Variety that he plans to reopen “as soon as practicable” on a nationwide basis. Landmark operates three West Los Angeles sites.
A spokesman for the 41-site Alamo Drafthouse chain says it is planning to announce next week the specifics of a “phased re-opening.” The chain, which offers in-theater dining and beverage service, opened its first Los Angeles location last July.
Lynne McQuaker, spokesperson for Studio Movie Grill, said the chain’s Los Angeles area locations will be opening in phases with detailed planning and preparation underway. “Downey, Glendale and Monrovia will be opening before ‘Tenet,'” she specified.
The historic Vista Theatre in Los Feliz remains closed but continues to sell popcorn at curbside each evening from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Drive-in movie theaters in Los Angeles were allowed to resume operations recently. The Paramount drive-in opened May 29 and the Vineland drive-in in City of Industry opened on June 8.
California’s new rules for conventional movie theaters include requiring face coverings to be worn when entering and exiting theaters, when obtaining refreshments at the concession stand and whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained. The guidelines also limit the number of attendees to 25% of theater capacity, or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower; implementing a reservation system to limit the number of attendees entering the theater at the same time; turning off public drinking water fountains; and reconfiguring seats to ensure at least six feet between attendees.