This has been the longest dry spell of my moviegoing life. Even the most blizzardy Chicago winter could not keep me away for more than a few weeks let alone the almost six months it’s been since the lockdown took hold. Theatre chains are poised to reopen and my daily war cry has changed from “I’m dying to see a movie!” to “Will going to the movies kill me?”
A voicemail left by the local Reading rep alerted me of their plans to reopen for business starting tonight. The call was followed up with an email list of precautions to be taken by both theater staff and guests alike. It looks like AMC is following suit by reopening their doors. The following was appropriated from the Reading Cinemas press release. Unless otherwise noted, these precautions apply to Grossmont, Town Square, and the Angelika Film Center.
● No mask, no movie. Period.
● They ask that you purchase tickets in advance. No cash will exchange hands; only credit, debit, or gift cards will be accepted. The theaters will have a designated transactional space in which to purchase gift cards.
● Purchasing tickets online will limit time spent in a crowded lobby. It’s going to take ushers more time to sanitize seats and armrests between shows, so there’s no need to arrive earlier than 30 minutes prior to showtime.
● Auditorium capacity will be reduced and seating will be assigned. According to the press release, “Ticket purchases for each party will automatically account for six feet of social distancing between parties, by blocking off the seats surrounding each group. Reading Cinemas further encourages parties to be made up of immediate household members where possible.”
● To improve air quality, Reading Cinemas has upgraded all HVAC filters and increased maintenance frequency.
● Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the theaters. Guests will be encouraged to wash their hands before and after consuming food and drinks.
● At AMC, contact-free beverage dispensing is now available. Their website encourages guests to use their smartphone to scan the QR code, select your favorite drink, pour and enjoy.
Truth be told, until Dr. Fauci gives movie theatres the green light, the closest I’ll get to the moviegoing experience is my television. Hell is other people, right? One can’t rely on their fellow theatre-dwellers to sit in silence for two hours with their phones turned off. What makes you think each visit to the bathroom is going to end in washed hands? Ever see what goes on inside a men’s lavatory? Half the time it takes kicking open two or three doors to find a stall that doesn’t resemble an explosion in a wastewater treatment plant. I wouldn't let my dog lift its leg on most public toilets; what with a coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world I sure in heck don’t relish the thought of availing myself of the services of one anytime soon. Do your business at home before hitting the multiplex.
No movies have meant no overpriced popcorn silos or troughs of Coca-Cola® to graze on. How many hundreds of dollars have I saved and will continue to save by avoiding the concession stand? Now may not be a good time to dine at the multiplex. Have you heard the one about the concessionaire at AMC Plaza Bonita caught with her hand in the popcorn bin, chomping away as if it were her own personal bucket? She did. While double-dipping in the warming deck is not a common occurrence, on a busy night one bag of popcorn could go through a half-dozen hands before reaching yours. Here’s a tip for those who can’t resist a visit to the snack bar. Stitch together an extra large facial covering, stuff it with popcorn and use it as a feedbag.
For those looking to see Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in the best possible surroundings, a visit to the big Grossmont is in order. See it in 70mm on a 60 foot screen or not at all. Good luck and stay healthy.