Movie theaters go through procedural changes due to COVID

Century Theatres in Rocklin is among the theaters taking these precautions due to COVID. Photo by

Heading to the movies with friends or family is a popular winter tradition. Usually the big holiday releases give students something easy and warm to do over breaks, but this year, it’s not the same experience. Whether that means fully closing down, requiring masks, enforcing social distancing practices or taking other safety/sanitary precautions, companies are doing something to prevent the spread.

Initially, movie theaters were fully shut down in California due to an order made by Governor Gavin Newsom on July 13. Since then, cinemas were able to reopen Sept. 8 under strict conditions and guidelines necessary to keep those who attend safe. Each major chain has handled the situation differently, such as Cinemark’s message to its customers

Wyatt Black went to see a movie at Century Theater on Blue Oaks following the reopening.

“You have to wear a mask until you get to your seat, and when you buy your tickets, it blocks off the surrounding seats, meaning nobody else can buy them, so you’re not sitting directly next to anyone,” Black said.

These safety precautions are necessary in preventing the spread of the virus, but that doesn’t mean that everyone enjoys them. Juliana Seltzer, who attended a movie with her friends, noticed how these changes made the experience different.

“In my opinion these changes have made the experience less enjoyable, because [fewer] seats are available, so it’s harder to even get into a movie. I actually enjoyed it when the movie theaters were more crowded. I think it’s more fun to have a bigger audience to enjoy the movie with. It just makes the experience more exciting,” Seltzer said.

Although some students aren’t too happy with the experience during this time, Juliana Roberson went to the cinema with her mom to see “The War With Grandpa” and was able to find some positive aspects made by these changes.

“Something I like better than before [COVID] is that I don’t have to sit as close to strangers. It was fine, but it just felt a little awkward, so now I think it’s a lot better because it makes it more intimate and makes for a better experience overall,” Roberson said.

Because of COVID, movie theater attendance has been lower overall. This, coupled with the social distancing procedures that reduce the amount of seats available per theater, makes for less people in the cinema.

“The theaters feel very empty because there’s less people going in general, and when I went, there were only two other people with us. I like them being empty because there’s no distractions, it’s quieter and even though it’s a little weird, it’s still fun. I’d definitely go again,” Black said.

Currently, there is uncertainty surrounding the status of cinemas in Placer County due to increased cases and the regression back into the purple tier. Regardless of whether people like these changes, movie theaters are among the many businesses stressing the importance of following these guidelines in order to prevent the spread.

Seltzer said, “Going to the movies is pretty normal, minus the fact that there are way less people in the lobby and just a few people scattered throughout the theaters. It’s just a little more glum, but it’s important during this time to keep up with the health and safety precautions so that theaters can one day go back to normal.”