Movie theaters are desperately trying to reopen. When it happens, you won't be sitting near anyone for awhile.

Movie theaters are desperately trying to reopen. When it happens, you won't be sitting near anyone for awhile.
  • Some movie theaters are planning to reopen by the end of April.
  • Insider spoke to several movie theater owners and executives about how they plan to do it (they spoke anonymously to Insider, but their identities are known and have been confirmed).
  • There will be a lot of social distancing while you watch the movie and staff could be wearing masks.
  • Older movies will be shown since most new movies' release dates have been pushed back.
  • The theater business has a goal of opening at full strength by the time Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" is to be released on July 17.
  • Sources admit a lot of this is based on CDC recommendations and mandates by governors and mayors.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The movie theater industry is struggling due to stay-in-place mandates and film release dates being delayed well into the fall. Now, owners and executives are pushing to reopen.

Outside of drive-ins, the big screen experience of watching a movie has been put on hold for about a month now since governors ordered that bars, restaurants (except take out), and theaters stay closed as part of social distancing and stay-in-place mandates.

But with some states hoping to reopen by the end of the month, according to the CDC, theater owners are deciding the proper steps to show moviegoers that it's safe to go back to the movies.

Insider spoke to several theater owners and executives who are currently working out reopening plans. While they all asked to remain anonymous due to industry concerns, their identities are known and have been confirmed by Insider.

You won't be sitting near anyone at a movie theater for a while

To start off, it seems it's going to feel very much like it was just before theaters closed: a lot of distancing between moviegoers and an emphasis on cleanliness.


Several theater chains are planning to keep their patrons spread out in their theaters, which will limit the number of tickets available for showings but will avoid potential outbreaks. It's also a possibility that there will be government mandates for how large gatherings can be in social settings, which theaters will have to abide by.

Movie theaters are desperately trying to reopen. When it happens, you won't be sitting near anyone for awhile.
Your new movie theater reality, probably. Karramba Production/shutterstock

Some owners and executives said this would eliminate reserved seating options, but one owner told Insider his chain has already retooled its tech to keep reserved seating available. The owner said going forward when you reserve a seat the system will place you in one that is distanced enough from the nearest patron.

Theater owners and executives are also not ruling out having staff wear masks while they work and that their temperatures be taken. Also if theaters do reopen, don't be surprised if you see social distancing signage on the floor near concession stands, similar to what is cropping up at grocery stores.

Many studios are offering their complete movie catalogs to theaters to entice moviegoers to return

For theaters that are able to open by the end of the month, they will be operating in a barren wasteland when it comes to new movie releases. With that reality, many theaters are planning to offer older titles to try to entice moviegoers until new releases come around, according to theater executives and industry insiders.


Several studios are making their entire catalogs available to theater bookers and offering very favorable terms for the theaters to show them. For some select titles studios will offer them without a fee, according to one source.

This is all leading up to the theater business hoping to come back in a big way by the weekend of July 17 when Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" is slated to open. But a lot of things will have to go right for that to happen.

'Tenet' could be the first new release you see in theaters, if everything goes right

Nolan has always been a huge supporter of the theatrical experience and the business wants to repay him in a big way by making "Tenet" (released by Warner Bros.) the first big movie audiences can see in theaters once the country reopens, according to multiple sources.

"It's not just showing the movie, but offering so many showtimes as a thank you to Warner Bros. for having faith in us and not giving up on theatrical," one theater owner told Insider.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many studios and distributors to drastically change its release slates. Some titles have been sold off to streamers ("The Lovebirds," "My Spy") and others have already been made available as Premium On Demand. That includes Universal's "Trolls World Tour," which is the first studio movie ever to be made available in theaters and On Demand the same day.


Movie theaters are desperately trying to reopen. When it happens, you won't be sitting near anyone for awhile.
John David Washington in "Tenet." Warner Bros.

Nolan is one of the biggest advocates for the theatrical experience, so it's fitting that "Tenet" would be the first big title to open. Many theaters hope opening soon will get moviegoers comfortable enough so when "Tenet" opens there's no fear to go to the theater to see the movie.

But that's not really in the theaters' hands.

All sources agree that their plans will need to be based on the CDC's recommendations, the mandates by governors and mayors, and the curve flattening. Movie theaters were quickly closed up again in China in late March due to fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases.

Though theater owners are optimistic of what the future holds, there is the reality that by the time "Tenet" is ready to open, it's still too dangerous to come together to see a movie.


"All we can do is wait and see," said one owner.

Read the original article on Insider