Is it safe to go back into movie theaters? The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has updated their safety guidelines in an effort to get patrons back into movie theaters. Major theater chains like AMC are starting to slowly open their doors this weekend and if you'd like to go, you will have to wear a face covering. Russell Crowe's Unhinged is all set to be the first wide release this weekend since the public health crisis shut everything down back in March. Christopher Nolan's Tenet will open on September 3rd.

Moviegoers will be required to wear a mask at all times, with certain exceptions. "Children under 2 years of age and individuals with certain medical/physical conditions that inhibit their ability to safely wear face coverings," will not be required to wear a mask. As for eating and drinking, masks will be allowed to be taken off, but they will have to be put right back on. "We will be enforcing this very carefully," says AMC CEO Adam Aron. "We will not let them stay in the theater if they don't keep them on except for a few minutes when they are sipping their cook or eating their popcorn."

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NATO consulted with leading epidemiologists for several months to try and get CinemaSafe off the ground. The team includes David F. Goldsmith of George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health and Joyce Sanchez, an infectious disease specialist and director of the Travel Health Clinic at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. Sanchez says, "As far as risk goes, it isn't risk free. It is important for the public to understand that but there's no data that movies have been a source of transmission." She concludes, "Honestly time will tell, but that is at least some basis for reassurance."

NATO chief John Fithian addressed the public during a press conference earlier today. He says, "moviegoers need to know that there is a consistent, science and experience-based set of health and safety protocols in place no matter what theater they visit. This unprecedented industry-wide effort is a promise designed to meet that need." Later in the press conference, Joyce Sanchez stated that she believes patrons should limit their eating and drinking within a movie theater. This will certainly put a damper on theaters making money, since food and drinks are where a lot of revenue comes from. CinemaSafe protocols are also limiting sharable food options.

When it comes down to it, theater goers will have to make the decision for themselves. As of this writing, Cinemark has reported no problems with masks with the 60+ theaters they have open nationwide. CinemaSafe will also be utilizing the standard procedures, which include limiting capacity and massive cleaning efforts. Hand sanitizer will also be available everywhere for patrons who do not have their own. For now, we'll just have to wait and see how this all goes. The Hollywood Reporter was one of the first outlets to reveal the new safety protocols for theaters that are able to open.

Kevin Burwick at Movieweb
Kevin Burwick