* Press release…
The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) of Illinois issued the following statement regarding Phase 4 reopening guidelines released by Gov. JB Pritzker’s office, which allows for movie theatres to reopen beginning June 26 with a maximum capacity of 50 people:
“While theatres across Illinois are excited to welcome customers back to the movies, the strict capacity limits announced by the governor’s office will make it difficult for many theatres to reopen. For some, it will simply not be feasible to rehire workers, purchase supplies and cover overhead costs if only 50 customers will be allowed in each auditorium. Many theatre auditoriums are quite large and can safely accommodate more viewers while maintaining proper physical distancing and sanitation measurers,” said Chris Johnson, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners of Illinois and CEO of Classic Cinemas. “We are disappointed the governor’s office declined to raise capacity limits after indicating a willingness to do so during recent conversations but remain hopeful that changes can be made sooner rather than later. We are eager to salvage what’s left of the summer blockbuster season and reclaim our role as a safe space to escape from life’s struggles.”
NATO of Illinois has proposed setting attendance limits at 50 percent of capacity – the same limits set for retail establishments and personal care businesses. Additional safety measures include:
• Requiring all employees to undergo training before returning to work on enhanced cleaning procedures, personal health and wellness, use of face masks and gloves, and maintaining social distancing.
• Taking employee temperatures before reporting to work for each shift.
• Mandating that cloth masks be worn at all times and disposable gloves be worn during customer interactions.
• Maintaining a minimum of six-foot distance between viewing parties, using empty seats and rows as necessary.
• Placing six-foot spacing markings in areas where guests may have to queue and assigning staff to ensure social distancing is respected.
• Encouraging customers to purchase tickets online to decrease contact opportunities.
I asked the group’s spokesperson Monique Garcia what the theaters were doing about the viral load issue. Dozens, or even hundreds of people sitting in the same room for a couple of hours could potentially shed a lot of virus into the air, after all…
“There are some who think we should just do nothing, have no restrictions, no capacity limits. But when you think of a gathering size of 100 and having a 30 percent chance of somebody in that 100 having a COVID virus — when you go up to 250 and that probability goes up to 60 percent — this is why we are being cautious and prudent.”
* Garcia’s response…
Among the safety precautions theatres have in place to limit risks include purchasing tickets online, staggered showtimes, maintaining a minimum six-foot distance between viewing parties, enhanced cleaning procedures including sanitation of seats between showings, and encouraging the use of face coverings even when seated in an auditorium.
Because we know that air flow is important in limiting risk, many theaters are placing special focus on improving air quality. This includes adjusting HVAC systems to increase the amount of fresh air being circulated and to remove stale air more quickly. New filters will also be put in place, including in vacuums and other devices.
*** UPDATE *** The governor was asked today about the theater owners’ expectation that they’d be able to sell tickets for half of their available capacity…
I want to be clear to anybody that had expectations of something larger that there is the opportunity for us to do that at any moment, you know, going forward as we look and see. Remember when we change guidelines, when we move from one phase to another, what we’re looking to do is to measure how are we doing in hospitalizations, how are we doing in positivity rates. If we start to see things moving up, forget spiking, if we see things moving upward we want to watch them closely. And it’s over time that you see well if things are relatively stable, or even decreasing as we saw, interestingly during phase three even though we opened up quite a lot in phase three, the answer is, you can make adjustments along the way and we certainly will.