Let’s All Go to the Movies!

No+employees+to+be+seen+upfront%2C+to+limit+contact+at+Century+Theatres

No employees to be seen upfront, to limit contact at Century Theatres

Jillian Johnson , Journalist

     Going out to see movies with family and friends has always been a fun activity, but ever since COVID-19 hit, theaters have had to change the way they show entertainment to the public. Movie theaters have been around since 1902, so this isn’t their first epidemic, but with new people come new ways of business and therefore show the new adjustments that have had to be made.

     Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health Workplace came out with a document of guidelines for movie theaters to follow through before they open their doors back up to the public. The current rules for Washington include indoor theaters being at 50% capacity during phase 3, requiring masks inside, maintaining six feet distances in lines, ensuring that there is a thorough cleaning between uses, moving ticket purchases online to avoid more contact in person, and even increased air filtration in HVAC systems. Employees and higher-ups must also abide by these rules at all times and provide the necessary paperwork for them to get back in business. 

     Cleaning is a big part for businesses to follow. “It’s a lot of cleaning!” says Noah Aden, General Manager of Yelm Cinemas, we have had to get really creative with our employee schedule.” With employees not being able to come in because of health or more personal reasons, Aden points out that they are especially short-staffed during this time. Over the 9 years that he has worked there, he says that they are “used to having a much bigger staff on all of our shifts”. Having added on cleaning jobs to the list of things to get done is not exactly what any business would like to go through, especially privately and family-owned ones like Yelm Cinemas. Unfortunately but still expected, Aden does say that business has “most definitely” been negatively impacted by this pandemic. 

     All over the state, theaters are staying closed until they can meet the specified regulations and be able to actually stay in business. With places such as Century Theaters at the Capitol Mall that always seem to have a constant number of people streaming in, they had to open and get their restrictions added in sooner to account for the customers. Gwen Wod, Usher at Century Theaters, says that even with the changes such as contactless ticket purchases and buffering in between each of the seats work overall has been “a bit slower than normal but still pretty good.” The foot traffic that usually comes with the mall definitely helps them out in that regard.

     As expected, theaters that also include putting on in-person plays and musicals have been even less fortunate. “As an actor in the community, it’s been a struggle looking for new opportunities as Washington slips into another state-wide lockdown,” says Ariyanna Fernandez, Performer at local theaters. These months have definitely been quite boring compared to her performance of A Christmas Story at Capitol Theatre back in December of 2018. Having participated in the arts for 8 years, Fernandez sincerely hopes to get right back on track after this lockdown lifts. “Hopefully soon we’ll be able to gather as a community once again.”

     CinemaSafe, made by The National Association of Theatre Owners, is a new program that has been put in place for movie theaters across the country to promote going back to the movies while abiding by CDC guidelines. More than 400 companies across 3,100 locations have been using this to show their customers just exactly what they’ve been working at to make sure the showings are as safe and enjoyable as possible. 

     Even with people being more willing to get out of their homes and enjoy a nice screening again, the movie industry itself has also been slow. Spending time to find the right location, make sure everyone on cast or crew is up to date with regulations, having them get regular testing, and actually filming are all elements it seems the directors and producers are currently facing. With not a whole lot of movies being currently made or being put onto streaming services instead, movie theaters can’t show anything new to the people besides re-runs and that would eventually mean less money coming in.

     A lot of theaters, and the film industry as a whole, have been put on hold for the time being or are slowly trying to work themselves back together. Before all the craze would be about how you can access your favorite films right on your tv or phone instead of paying money to go see it in person and now that it has been taken away, it seems the people have a need to go back and experience movies inside theaters once again.