Movie Theaters Tout COVID-19 Safety Protocols

As cinemas welcoming back audiences this summer, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) is introducing a set of health protocols that it claims will keep customers safe from COVID-19.

Dubbed “CinemaSafe,” the standards include asking patrons to social distance and wear masks, encouraging the purchase of tickets online, and making hand sanitizer more readily available. They also call for frequent cleanings of theaters, as well as urge cinemas to install improved HVAC systems, while pushing contact-free concessions. Employees are being encouraged to wash their hands repeatedly throughout a shift and will be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. The protocols are voluntary. They were developed by NATO, the lobbying arm of the exhibition industry, and rely on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

John Fithian, head of NATO, said the measures are being taken to make sure that moviegoers can “return to their favorite pastime with confidence.” 

The theater business has been largely shuttered since March when coronavirus began spreading across the globe. Cinemas have started slowly to resume business, and several notable Hollywood releases such as “Unhinged,” “Tenet,” and “The New Mutants” will hit theaters in the coming weeks.

NATO announced the new health standards in a press conference that included exhibition industry chiefs such as AMC head Adam Aron and IMAX Entertainment head Megan Colligan, as well as health experts such as Dr. David F. Goldsmith, PhD, an occupational and environmental epidemiologist at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, and Dr. Joyce Sanchez, an infectious disease specialist and director of the Travel Health Clinic at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. The medical professionals emphasized that it’s impossible to ensure that consumers will be entirely safe from coronavirus.

“There’s no activity outside the home that has no risk,” said Sanchez. However, she noted that keeping people six-feet apart and encouraging them to wear masks will help reduce transmission of the virus.

Sanchez said that the public should “very respectfully speak up” if they see audience members or employees who are failing to embrace those precautions.

“Honor the people around you and honor the policies set in place,” she said.

Goldsmith added that “there are no findings that show a link between going to see a movie and contracting COVID-19.”

More to come…

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