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California movie theaters given go ahead to reopen

Posted at 6:13 PM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 00:03:25-04

Movie theaters have been given the green light to reopen by Governor Gavin Newsom.

As with many other industries, theaters are now going to have to adapt to strict new guidelines in order to conduct business.

Just like in the movie business, the show must go on in Paso Robles for Park Cinemas owner John Roush.

He and his staff have been spending the last several weeks adapting the theater for reopening.

"We're going to have every other row marked off so you won't be able to sit in them. We'll have a certain number of seats and then there will be seats that you can't sit in, so you're social distancing from your neighbors who you're not with," Roush said.

Roush said the new seating equates to around only 25 percent capacity, as part of the state's new guidelines.

"So a 200 seat theater is probably going to be in the neighborhood of 50 people maximum, which hopefully will work out fine," said Roush.

Roush said the time away has been extremely detrimental to nearly every aspect of the business: candies have expired, syrup for sodas has had to be thrown out, and some equipment has been offline for so long it's now struggling to boot back up.

"We're hoping [business] comes back well. From our standpoint obviously it's extremely financially expensive; we're going to be dramatically in the hole by the end of the year I'm sure," Roush said.

At the Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo, owner Jim Dee is taking a more conservative approach.

"I never had to fear anyone coming to the theater with SARS or Ebola and that's the way COVID has to get as far as I'm concerned; as far as not worrying about being a hot spot or a place where this very contagious disease can spread," Dee explained.

Dee said he probably won't feel comfortable re-opening until there's a vaccine for COVID-19 or fewer outbreaks happening.

"Our theaters are not that big, it's a small enclosed space. People may be sitting in there for a couple of hours so that doesn't seem to be the safe approach at least at this time," said Dee.

The Park Cinemas is expected to open up July 1st.

Roush said movie times will be more staggered to make time for ushers to sanitize all the seats and armrests in between showings.

State health officials say moviegoers should, at a minimum, wear face coverings when entering and exiting movie theaters or buying concessions.