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California Movie Theaters Can Reopen on June 12

Theaters must limit capacity to 25% or at a maximum of 100, whichever is fewer

California’s movie theaters can reopen with limitations as early as this Friday, according to new guidelines released by the state on Monday for “family entertainment centers.”

Theaters must limit their capacity to 25% or at a maximum of 100, whichever is fewer. “Physical, impermeable barriers or partitions” must be installed between seats, and theaters are encouraged to “reconfigure, close, or otherwise remove seats from use to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet between attendees.”

“This may require seating every other row or blocking off or removing seats in a ‘checkerboard’ style (use each row but make sure no one is directly behind other patrons) so that distances are maintained in all directions,” the guidelines, which also encourage “disposable or washable seat covers,” state. “Members of the same household may be seated together but should maintain at least six feet of distance from other households.”

Theaters are also encouraged to “implement timed and/or advanced reservation ticketing systems and pre-assigned seating or activity areas, whenever possible, to stagger customer visits and help maintain physical distances.” Visitors waiting for their assigned times should also be encouraged to wait in their cars, according to the guidelines.

The guidelines also suggest customers should order food and drink from concession stands in advance online or over the phone for counter pick-up. High-touch and high-traffic areas, such as lobbies, break rooms, stairways, elevators, credit card machines, vending machines and armrests are required to be thoroughly cleaned and frequently disinfected. Disposable or single-use items are encouraged, such as for 3D glasses, or disinfected before and after a guest uses them.

Amusement parks, water parks, ice rinks, roller rinks, laser tag arenas and other entertainment centers where guests can’t follow physical distancing requirements are not included in the guidelines.

While the reopening announcement may be encouraging for some movie theaters, which have faced financial hardship since they were forced to close back in March, multiple theater owners nationwide have told TheWrap over the past month that a 25% capacity limit would make it difficult to operate profitably. The industry is hoping for a capacity limit of 50% by the time major films are scheduled to be released again in theaters, starting with “Tenet” on July 17 and “Mulan” on July 24.

Approximately 725 theaters have reopened so far nationwide with plans for thousands more to reopen in the coming weeks. National chain Cinemark announced in an earnings call last week that it will open select locations starting June 19 and gradually reopen its entire circuit over subsequent weeks with the goal of having most if not all locations open in time for the release of “Tenet.”