Drive-in theaters and streaming services are surging, but indoor movie theaters have a string of potential blockbusters lined up to lure consumers back as soon as states allow them to reopen.
Convincing theatergoers to return amid the coronavirus crisis may not be so simple, however.
“The absolute bottom line is they have to feel safe and secure,” said Patrick Corcoran, chief communications officer for the National Association of Theatre Owners. “Theaters have a huge responsibility in demonstrating that they are safe and being proactive about that.”
Movie theaters nationwide went dark in March to help control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Some have reopened with masked employees, mobile ticketing and capped capacity. In Sulphur Springs, Texas, Bright Star Cinemas requires customers to leave a two-seat gap.
The Hawthorne Five movie theater has gone dark until further notice.
With many movies delayed, the theater is supplementing its showings with old classics. “The Goonies” and “The Wizard of Oz” were on the marquee when the Texas theater reopened May 18.
Even in Texas, where movie theaters can reopen with proper social distancing and increased sanitization, not everyone is participating. Large chains such as AMC, Regal and Cinemark are sitting on the sidelines.
Cinemark’s April investor presentation claimed the company likely has enough cash to sustain operations into 2021 without reopening. Still, during the accompanying conference call, Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said the company had targeted a July 1 start in some areas. Anticipated movies, such as Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and Disney’s “Mulan,” are scheduled to release in July.
A statement from Cinemark said the return to “normalcy” and customer comfort may span months, with staggered openings, reduced hours and lingering social distancing.
Plexiglass at the concessions counter, disinfecting seats between shows and hand sanitizer at the entrance could become common trends, Corcoran said. Newer trends such as mobile ticketing and touchless check-in will become more widespread, he added.