By Dominic Rosetti
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Since AMC opened seven theaters in Maryland in early September, movie-goers have been either excited by a return to some normalcy or skeptical about claims the COVID-19 pandemic is easing up.
“At the moment, I would not go to the movie theaters,” said Alex Maki, a 20-year-old junior at Towson University. “I think it would be hard to properly sanitize the chairs and theater.”
However, Sean Christian, a 22-year-old junior at Morgan State, said, “I think the theaters reopening is perfectly fine.”
The movie theater industry shut down along with most other businesses and schools in March when the coronavirus began to sicken and even kill hundreds of thousands of people. Gov. Larry Hogan on March 31issued a stay-at-home order statewide, forcing many of the homebound to tap into stream websites.
Today, however, Maryland and other states are beginning to reopen businesses and schools. And, theater owners and operators are bragging about the steps they have taken to assure the safety of movie goers. In addition to Maryland, AMC opened high profile theaters in Orange County, Calif. and New Jersey.
“After a five-month closure in the United States, the movie theatre industry is finally now starting on its way back,” said AMC CEO and President Adam Aron in a recent press release.
“We are greatly encouraged that during the last few weeks as theatres have started to reopen, moviegoers have already returned to AMC more than 1 million times,” said Aron. “They are getting to see first-hand our extensive and comprehensive commitment to the health or our guests and associates through our new AMC Safe & Clean protocols.”
For example, AMC Theaters in White Marsh put key policies in place to ensure the safety of the guests. Officials said that masks are a huge importance and the theater will not allow anyone in without wearing one.
Signs plastered throughout the theater note the specific types of masks. AMCtheatres.com stressed: “neck gaiters, open-chin bandanas and masks with vents or exhalation valves are not acceptable at this time. If needed, masks are available to purchase for just $1.”
Customers can only remove their mask while eating and drinking during the movie, officials said, adding the theater is taking proper precautions with social distancing guidelines.
Many Maryland theaters are not opening at full capacity. Officials said that the theaters that offer reserved seating will automatically block the seats on either side when tickets are purchased. Theaters that do not offer reserve seating asks guests to respect social distancing protocol when selecting a seat.
In addition, many theaters are using cashless transactions. Those theaters that have tickets and concession stands allow guests to pay with cash only if no other form of payment is possible.
At the White Marsh AMC, theater officials added hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes throughout the lobby. Customers are asked to take advantage of the cleaning stations, especially after ordering food and drinks at the concession. Customers enjoy fewer items on the menu, which officials said was shortened for faster service.
Besides Maki’s suspicions about the cleanliness of theaters, she added, “I also don’t think the movie experience would feel the same as before and would not be worth spending $13 on a ticket.”
“I’d much rather stay at home to watch a movie in the comfort and safety of my own home,” Maki stressed.
However, Christian said he is comforted by the changes made by AMC theater operators and excited about having somewhere to go when he leaves his home.
Christian said reopening theaters is fine.
“The reason is we’ve been quarantined for six months now,” he explained. “I would certainly go see a movie if they have the necessary cleaning supplies.”
AMC, considered the largest movie exhibition company in the United States, said in a statement that “more important than merely reopening our doors, however, is that our new AMC Safe & Clean safety protocols are clearly resonating with our guests.”