Why you should consider going back to the movie theater this summer
For most of us, the experience of going to theaters to watch the newest box office movie hasn’t been an option for the past year. With the threat of COVID-19 looming in the air, most have been hesitant to go back to movie theaters. However, as more Americans are getting vaccinated, going to the movies is becoming increasingly safer.
In the U.S., most states have lifted restrictions to some degree depending on their COVID-19 situation. In Maryland, theaters are allowed to open at full capacity, according to CinemaSafe, though masks are still required. This restriction could lift in the near future; in May, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that indoor mask mandates would be lifted once 70 percent of adults in Maryland received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Baltimore Sun. As of June 14, over half (55 percent) of the state's population has received the first dose of a two-dose vaccine, and 52 percent are fully vaccinated.
The key to assessing whether or not to go to the movie theater depends on the local situation with case numbers. According to an interactive from the New York Times, there were 99 new cases in Maryland on June 13, a significant improvement from mid-April when daily cases averaged well over 1000. As case numbers continue to steadily decline, going to the movie theaters in Maryland now is the safest time to do so that we’ve seen in the past year.
Moviegoers who are concerned about safety can consider the pricier option of renting a private theater room. Last November, AMC Entertainment launched their private movie theater rentals system. The rooms, which are called AMC Safe & Clean™ auditoriums, are available for rental starting from $99. The auditoriums allow for private groups of up to 20 guests, and provide the full theater experience without the dangers of being around strangers.
CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen also mentions that theater size is an important factor, too. “A theater that's in a small room with low ceilings [is] very different from a large theater with very high ceilings and good ventilation. So, look to see what kind of protocols they have for physical distancing. Ideally, there is at least 6-feet distance between you and other individuals,” Wen says. It’s best to avoid small theaters with poor ventilation, and to try to maintain social distancing with others while in the theater.
Not only can going to the theater be a fun activity after a year of watching Netflix indoors, but it’s also a great way to help the entertainment economy, as the movie and theater industry has suffered large losses during the pandemic. In fall of 2020, after months of low audience turnout in theaters, many large movie production companies moved the release dates of blockbuster movies to 2021. According to CNBC, this meant that theaters had even less to attract moviegoers, since there weren’t as many new movies that would entice large audiences.
When a lot of these blockbuster movies were released in winter and early spring of 2021, the U.S. was still trying to handle case numbers and get vaccines out quickly to Americans. Thus, audiences still opted to watch movies at home through streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+.
While this helped contribute to the movie and media entertainment economy, theaters were still left with low audience numbers and decreasing funds. According to Variety.com, AMC Entertainment lost $4.6 billion last year during the pandemic, with revenue falling 77.3 percent. This is part of the reason why they were able to open their private rental theaters, since the general audience turnout was so low. Even if movies are still being produced, movie theaters are faltering and need the economic push from audience members.
Since COVID-19 isn’t as much of a threat in Maryland as it was before, watching movies in theaters is no longer as risky, and could be an imperative part in stimulating the entertainment economy after a year of losses. So go ahead -- buy some tickets, settle in a nice large theater with some 3D glasses, and indulge in the bucket of buttery popcorn you’ve been dreaming of for the past year.
Katalina Li. Hi there! I'm Katie (she/her) and I'm a junior. When I'm not writing articles, I'm usually binge-watching Gordon Ramsay shows, drawing Studio Ghibli characters, or making piano covers for my YouTube channel :) More »