Back to the Movies

The pandemic has hurt many businesses by decreasing capacity and limiting dining options.Among these hurting businesses are movie theaters, which are now finally seeing a return to maximum capacity in accordance with new CDC guidelines and stricter sanitary protocols.Movie theaters are taking extensive measures to ensure guest safety. Even as they return to normal, Regal Theatres have implemented a sanitary system developed by epidemiologists and commissioned by the National Association of Theater Owners called CinemaSafe. Regal’s website describes these as “expert-backed, industry-specific health and safety protocols.” 

Along with these, Regal is encouraging guests to wear masks and minimize contact with other moviegoers. There has also been an increased drive by various theater chains to minimize contact at ticket booths and concession stands. This has been done by encouraging both ticket and concession purchases to be done through apps so that less time is spent in interactions with staff and others in the line. All this, along with masking recommendations and sanitary measures combines to form an atmosphere in which moviegoers report feeling safe and comfortable. 

Other theaters have also each developed their own proprietary COVID-19 policies, such as AMC theaters’ Safe & Clean policies. Norfolk’s very own Cinema Cafes, however, seem to be outlier due to their less stringent sanitary protocols and the dine-in nature of the establishment precluding the constant use of masks.

During movies, it seems that masks and other more strict policies were upheld by some moviegoers, while a large portion of guests also remained maskless. While for some, masks at the movies are an inconvenience—given that they must be put on and removed for drinking and eating—it appears that others are content to wear their masks at all times during the movie.

Many students are excited to return to a more traditional movie viewing experience. Ryan Abraham, a student, and frequent moviegoer said that “some movies are meant to be seen on the big screen,” and this sentiment seems to be widespread among students. 

“There’s also something to be said for the shared experience of people in a theater watching a movie,” Abraham said. This much is certainly true for the action and thriller flicks which tend to dominate the box office.

It is also worth noting that, despite the online viewing options, which some larger filmmakers such as Disney are providing, many people still prefer viewing movies in person for the aforementioned “shared experience.” This is evidenced by the fact that most movies, such as Marvel’s “Black Widow” still tend to earn over twice as much at box offices than premium streaming service releases.

It may also be of interest to know that the success garnered by the more recent theatrical releases has prompted filmmakers to reassess their previously announced delays. While delays can still be expected, they may become less severe, since the surge in box office numbers is a good sign for filmmakers that people feel safe returning to the movies in person.

Altogether, there seems to be a buzz on campus about movies that has not been felt for a long time; as both students and faculty can be heard discussing many recent releases such as “Candyman” and Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Along with this, there is also a palpable excitement for even more movies soon to come.

By Alex Cain