Yesterday, Coming Attractions Theaters, owner of the Broadway Cinema and Mill Creek movie houses, announced its reopening Friday, June 12. However, no timeline for opening theaters has been set by the county's Public Health Officer Teresa Frankovich.
In an email, the Department of Health and Human Services told the Journal
that Frankovich contacted Coming Attractions President and COO Al Lane today to clarify what she took to be genuine confusion regarding state and county regulations.
"I explained that while the state decides how movie theaters will open in California, county health authorities decide when, and we’re just not ready for theaters to open here,” she said in a statement provided by DHHS. The email also said Lane would "walk back the advertising campaign" and await word on when theaters are cleared to open locally.
In a call with the Journal
, Lane said the company — which operates a total of 18 movie houses in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and California — had made an error as to which guidelines to follow and would adhere to the county's rules. “We’re not gonna be showing movies there until they say we can,” he said.
The first week's schedule was to be a mix of films that had their openings stepped on by the pandemic, like Bloodshot
, The Hunt
, Trolls: World Tour
, and nostalgic offerings like Grease
. Of course, that scene where the mayor won't close Amity's beaches might feel a little too real for some anyway. Is it safe to go back into the theaters?
Broadway and Mill Creek theaters plan to open Friday, June 12 with the 1975 movie 'Jaws,' among others.
On Monday, the California Department of Public Health released industry guidelines
for family entertainment centers, like "bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages, arcades and movie theaters," with a recommended date of no sooner than June 12. (Read the full guidelines below.) "Even with adherence to physical distancing," the document states, "convening in a setting bringing multiple different households to engage in the same activity carries a relatively higher risk for widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and may result in increased rates of infection, hospitalization and death, especially among more vulnerable populations."
Theaters that open elsewhere will have to limit attendance to 25 percent capacity with a maximum audience of 100. Recommended training is similar to that of restaurants in terms of basic COVID-19 hygiene, like hand washing, mask wearing and self screening. Face coverings are "strongly recommended" for staff and "guests and visitors should be screened for symptoms upon arrival, asked to use hand sanitizer, and to bring and wear a face covering when not eating or drinking." It also directs venues to "thoroughly clean and disinfect each customer activity area after every use. This can include disinfecting tables, chairs, booster seats, booths, touch screens, etc."
Once the theaters are clear to open, Lane says Coming Attractions staff will be asking patrons about their exposure to COVID-19 and possibly taking temperatures. “We’re trying to find out about that right now,” he says. Masks and glove will be required for staff, and ushers will monitor social distancing and masks for patrons who aren't eating or drinking. There will also be hour-long cleaning breaks between showings.
With 12 screens at Broadway, Lane says the 25 percent capacity rule won't be much of a change and he's not expecting huge crowds, at least in the beginning. “We don’t ever fill up all screens at all times,” he says, noting that each auditorium usually fills about 20-30 percent of its seats. The only change he sees in terms of capacity is that a blockbuster might play on half the screens to spread out the crowd. “The key to making it work is getting new product from Hollywood but that’s not gonna happen until July,” he says.
Asked what the company's response would be should a customer or employee test positive, Lane says, “If any of out theaters have any positive COVID cases, we’ll immediately address it, shut down the theaters, quarantine the staff and follow any state guidelines. ... The last thing we want is to have a hotspot.”
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