The movie theater industry’s top lobbyist says requiring vaccines will bring short-term pain for cinemas but would be helpful in the long run
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As movie theater owners gather in Las Vegas for CinemaCon amidst a resurgent pandemic, National Association of Theater Owners CEO John Fithian said that vaccine mandates may be necessary for the exhibition industry to bounce back from the pandemic’s prolonged effect on the box office.
“Honestly, it’s a mixed bag for movie theaters. On the one hand, it will cost us some business, and we know that, because some unvaccinated people won’t be able to attend our cinemas,” Fithian told TheWrap.
“The upside, of course, is that we as an industry that represents places where people gather recognize that we need vaccination rates to climb to get back to a full recovery as we go into next year,” he continued. “The vaccination mandates have shown a substantial increase in people’s interest in getting vaccinated, and we hope the same thing happens in these places in the United States.”
And the industry is desperately in need of a full recovery. While 87% of movie theaters have reopened this year after a long pandemic shudown, domestic box office is down 74% year-to-date from pre-pandemic 2019.
Fithian said that he has held discussions with movie theater owners about possible mandates and how the industry can best prepare for them. He noted that in France and Italy, weekend box office revenue initially fell as much as 40% once vaccine mandates were implemented for entertainment venues, but are slowly recovering as the mandates have increased vaccination rates. While he believes that mandates could create short-term struggle for theaters, they should ultimately pay off in the long run.
Still, Fithian argued for a cautious approach to mandates. “We want to have some flexibility on how this is enforced, he said. “We know we will have to educate our staff. You can’t just flick a switch overnight and have a new system of checking records, and we also know we will have some patrons that are upset about this.”
In recent weeks, a growing number of communities have required proof of vaccination for indoor public spaces like movie theaters amid a recent surge in COVID infections and hospitalizations, driven primarily by unvaccinated adults.
This past week in New York City, a new order from Mayor Bill De Blasio went into effect requiring residents to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter theaters and other entertainment venues, a move similar to ones made nationally in France and Italy. City officials in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Orleans are considering similar mandates.
Fithian said that NATO is in contact with De Blasio’s office and with officials in other cities where the vaccine mandates are being considered.
Watch the full interview with Fithian above.
Box Office Reporter • email@example.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster