Coronavirus (Maybe) Not Coming to a Theater Near Youcsudhbulletin September 10, 2020 0 COMMENTS
Movie theater in Long Beach with doors locked and lights off, displaying its temporary closure on the marquee. Photo by Carlos Martinez.
By Carlos Martinez, Staff Reporter
It’s almost impossible for me to remember what life was like before the pandemic. I vaguely remember making plans with my coworkers for the ticket presale of “Black Widow” and “A Quiet Place Part II” back in early March. From rotating shifts on Fandango to picking out the best theater within our radius, we were trying to avoid any stressful mishaps we faced when we were scrambling to get tickets for 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.”
No matter how prepared and detailed our plan was, we weren’t prepared for the COVID-19 shake-up.
On March 15, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an executive order to close bars and nightclubs, dine-in restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues such as movie theaters. Originally, the order was meant to keep these places closed until March 31.
Now seven months after the original ordinance, LA. County is beginning to see a drop on testing positivity rates and cases according to the LA Times. Businesses are gearing up for another attempt at reopening under the new guidelines; with the first batch of movie theaters in California reopening Labor Day weekend.
This gives me queasiness in the stomach.
Don’t get me wrong. I miss being able to watch the best summer flick in an air-conditioned auditorium with a giant, overpriced popcorn bucket on my lap; but it’s too much of a risk to have the moviegoer experience right now as the country is adapting to the new COVID-19 normal.
Although theater owners claim strict maintenance and order will keep the audience safe, one needs to consider how they were like pre-COVID-19 and do a complete overhaul on everything.
John Otero, a fifth-year television major, was an usher at a movie theater in Cerritos when the county issued the closure on all entertainment venues. He described it as a scary time when that two-week break ended up with him out of a job. Hearing movie theaters could open in a matter of weeks, he quickly shot down the idea.
“It’s not realistic,” Otero said, “and it’s not safe.”
Before the pandemic, Otero and his coworkers had about 15 to 20 minutes to clean the auditorium and wipe down every seat after each showing. On opening nights of popular movies and holiday weekends, they would have even less time as more auditoriums would be used and vacated within the same time frame.
“Lots of times it was just a wipe,” he said. “We were told that we shouldn’t use cloths with sanitizing water and should just use plain (water.)”
Otero also said that they would also only clean if the auditorium was visually dirty, depending on time constraints and attendance.
Although movie theaters typically have dozens of people in each auditorium relaxing and watching their favorite actor demonstrating their chops on the big screen, it’s still pretty damn surprising how their cleaning procedures go.
Granted, movie theaters can just space out each showing to give their employees more time to deep clean every seat with the proper chemicals. Nonetheless, movie theaters can’t control the people that walk through their doors.
As face masks are now a political statement instead of a way to protect public health, there are now more people out there who will find a way to sneak into these places without the proper coverings. This leads to altercations and faster ways to spread the virus.
Also, many are fatigued from isolation and having to wear masks everywhere they go and just want to feel “normal” for a couple of hours.
On Memorial Day weekend, many Americans were ignoring social distancing rules in order to have a little taste of the “normal” before COVID-19 by flocking to the beaches and cramming themselves in backyard pool parties. According to the LA Times, the number of hospitalized people infected with the virus increased by more than 50 percent compared to April. This was also around the time where many states were trying to reopen for the summer.
Despite the fact that many businesses will not be fully open for Labor Day weekend, there are still big holidays coming up that can cripple the chances to reopen again; Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas will have some crazy nut throwing a “Project X” style party.
“I don’t think people are taking it seriously,” Otero said. “There are people who just glanced over COVID too easily.”
As much as it pains me that I can’t see Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” in IMAX or get my comic book geek on with “Black Widow,” it is still too soon to sit with random strangers in a dark room for two hours. You can’t really plan out every single detail to make sure things go perfect as things are still uncertain and unstable. Theaters may be temporary but movies are forever.