Coronavirus: Cinemas Prepare For Their New Normal

Cisco Cotto
June 17, 2020 - 6:00 am
Lake Theater Oak Park

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Cinemas will begin re-opening very soon, following the three-month shutdown due to the pandemic.

But will people come to movie theaters, and what can patrons expect?

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for the box office tracking company Comscore in Los Angeles, looked into his crystal ball.

Initially, movie theaters will be required to operate at reduced capacity.

“For a lot of people, it’s almost going to feel like a private screening. You’re going to have all this distance between people,” he tells Cisco Cotto on the latest edition of the WBBM In Depth podcast. “It’s going to be a very long time before we see every seat in a movie theater taken up.”

The next phase of Illinois’ reopening, Phase 4, could begin as soon as June 26. It limits large public gatherings to 50 people, and theater operators have asked for a limit on seating capacity, by percentage, rather than a cap on the number of people.

Viewers still crave the big-screen experience and would like to experience that with friends and family, Dergarabedian said. But he adds theater chains must demonstrate a high level of safety.

As for moviegoers, they’ll have to get used to attending movies wearing masks.

“Right now, when you go out to various stores that are reopening, you have to wear a mask,” Dergarabedian said. “That’s going to make for an interesting way to eat popcorn. I don’t know exactly how you’re going to do that.”