As multiple governors in the U.S. are looking to move forward with reopening their states as early as next month, one movie theater in Oklahoma has a plan to get their doors back open much sooner than the major cinema chains. As a non-essential business, movie theaters across the country have been closed in the interest of public safety, and word is the major chains won't be reopening until July at the earliest. Those in Tulsa may not have to wait as long to watch movies on the big screen again, as Circle Cinema owner Clark Wiens says he's putting preparations in place to open back up in May.
"We made a lot of changes. We want to find all we can so you would not have to have physical contact with anything in the theater, beside setting your posterior in the seat," Wiens tells Variety. According to Wiens, this means installing plexiglass screens with plans for all theater employees to wear masks and gloves while working. Wiens also says his entire staff is "gung-ho" for this idea and eager to return to work at Circle Cinema. "They are all willing and excited about coming back to work, though they are concerned about their health," the theater owner states.
Of course, Wiens has some ideas on how to keep the theater's patrons safe as well. This includes using spaced seating, so no one will sit directly in front of or behind another filmgoer. Other changes will see the salt dispenser replaced with paper salt packets, as well as a contactless butter dispenser. Circle Cinema employees will also be required to sanitize the theater seats after each showing, and capacity may be limited to about 50% at most for each screen. Wiens also says wearing masks may be an option for customers, although it would "make it difficult to eat popcorn." Regular customers will be surveyed with an email list to see what people would be most comfortable with, and souvenir Circle Cinema masks are also said to be a possibility.
Most other theaters intend to stay closed for awhile longer, as in addition to safety concerns, there's also the issue of no new movies coming out at this time. A handful of titles have debuted digitally, while other major movies set to be released during these times have been delayed until later this year or even sometime next year. That will leave Circle Cinema with the challenge of finding movies to show people will pay to see, but Wiens has some ideas there as well. Wiens says Circle Cinema gets most of their movies from IFC, Searchlight, and Sony Pictures Classics, but it remains unclear what exactly they'll be showing when they reopen.
This week, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced that many businesses in the state would be allowed to reopen on Friday, May 1, at their own discretion. Wiens isn't expecting to open Circle Cinema quite that soon, but the theater owner is planning to open between May 15 and June 1. For better or for worse, this may serve as an experiment for other theaters to observe. If all goes well, we could start seeing other independent theaters following suit soon after. In the meantime, drive-in theaters have continued to stay open, offering filmgoers the option of watching movies from the safety of their own vehicles. This news comes to us from Variety.