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Movie Theaters Included in Trump’s 3-Phase Plan to Reopen US Economy

The decision on whether to open up businesses again ultimately falls to each state’s governor

The Trump White House on Thursday announced a three-phase plan to reopen the U.S. economy that includes the reopening of movie theaters and sporting venues.

In Phase One of the “Opening Up America Again” plan following the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic, all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place, social and physical distancing should still be practiced in public, non-essential travel should be minimized and teleworking should continue to occur where possible. But for states and regions that satisfy the “gating requirements,” “large venues,” including “sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship” can operate under “strict physical distancing protocols.” Elective surgeries can resume and gyms can open if they adhere to “strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols”

It’s not immediately clear what strict physical distancing protocols would entail.

Phase Two, which can only begin after a community shows no evidence of rebound or surge in new cases, would allow the aforementioned “large venues” to operate under “moderate physical distancing protocols.” Schools and organized youth activities can reopen and bars can operate with “diminished standing-room occupancy.”

Phase Three allows for visits to senior care facilities and hospitals, gyms to reopen with “standard sanitation protocols” and bars to operate with “increased standing room occupancy, where applicable.” The aforementioned large venues — sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues and places of worship — will be able to operate with “limited physical distancing protocols.”

While movie theaters are included alongside restaurants among the businesses that could open under Phase One under strict social distancing protocols, an industry insider told TheWrap that theaters are more likely to open when states and regions are cleared to enter Phase Two because of the looser restrictions on mass gatherings. Phase One guidelines advise individuals against mass gatherings of more than 10 people while Phase Two guidelines raise that number to 50 people.

Before movie theaters closed nationwide in mid-March, theater chains such as AMC attempted to remain open by implementing protocols such as deep cleaning of theater locations and reducing capacity of auditoriums to leave empty seats between customers. This was done in order to adhere to public health advisories against gatherings of more than 50 people; but once the CDC tightened the mass gathering limit to 10 people, theater chains nationwide promptly announced that their locations would be closed. The National Association of Theater Owners declined to comment on this story.

The decision on whether to open up businesses again ultimately falls to each state’s governor — a stark contrast to Trump’s false claims three days ago that he had the “ultimate authority” over deciding when the country reopens following nationwide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At a press conference on Thursday, Trump said that states that met the requirements for Phase One could reopen under those guidelines as early as tomorrow.

“America wants to be open, and Americans want to be open,” Trump said. “We are not opening all at once, but one step at a time.”

On Tuesday, California state officials also outlined six requirements they said the state needed to succeed in before the “stay at home” order would be gradually lifted.

Jeremy Fuster contributed to this story.