Movie theaters in Los Angeles county are poised to reopen at limited capacity as soon as Saturday.
The county had to meet several requirements, such as distributing two million vaccine doses to underserved populations and having fewer than 10 new cases a day per 100,000 people. Gov. Gavin Newsom says California should hit the vaccine milestone on Friday. Once the state reaches that threshold, county officials will have to sign off in order for cinemas to reopen.
“Southern California, L.A., will be a big beneficiary of this new metric,” Newsom said during Wednesday’s daily press conference.
Given the quick turnaround, however, it’s unclear which theaters — if any — will be able to reopen by this weekend. Privately, some major theater circuits believe their venues won’t be operational until March 19.
When they do get the green light, multiplexes in the country’s most populous county will be able to operate at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less. Gyms and indoor dining, at limited capacity, will also be included as California moves into the red tier.
The announcement comes shortly after cinemas in New York City resumed operation, meaning the two biggest movie markets in the country currently have approval to welcome back patrons. It’s a positive sign for the film business, one that could inspire Hollywood studios to release their big-budgeted movies in theaters.
For those who make their living by showing movies on the big screen, it’s been a brutal 12 months. After the coronavirus pandemic forced theaters to close last March, studios began pulling their buzziest titles en masse. Though a select few — including “Tenet,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “The Croods: A New Age” and “Tom and Jerry” — still made their way to theaters, many potential blockbusters were delayed or sent to streaming services. Attendance remained low in the select U.S. cities in which theaters were able to reopen, partially because people weren’t comfortable returning to the movies and partially because there wasn’t much to see.
In recent weeks, though, studios have optimistically shuffled around release dates for “A Quiet Place Part II” (May 28) and “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” (May 14). Theater operators hope that trend continues as coronavirus cases steadily decline and more people get vaccinated. Universal has shifted plans for “Fast & Furious” sequel “F9” but still intends to debut the latest installment in the high-octane franchise this summer.