Wednesday, June 17, 2020

What Does Cinemark's Reopening Plan Look Like?

If you live in Texas, chances are you live near a Cinemark. Though we've got plenty of AMC Theaters, Studio Movie Grill's, and Alamo Drafthouse's in Texas, Cinemark, which was founded in Texas, is the movie theater that dominates the state. That means any news about the chain will be big news for Texas denizens. That's especially true when it concerns plans for the theater chain to reopen its doors in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. After months of closure, Cinemark will be reopening five Dallas/Fort Worth locations on Friday, June 19 (including Cinemark West Plano) while planning to open further locations each Friday from there.

The plan is to get all Cinemark locations open by July 10, when the first new theatrical wide release in two months, Unhinged, debuts. On a personal note, these plans feel wildly irresponsible given the surging cases of COVID-19 in many states, including Cinemark's own home base of Texas. I'd love nothing more than to go to a movie theater again but not under current conditions. I'm especially wary of returning to movie theaters given that Cinemark is refusing to make wearing masks mandatory at their reopened locations.

However, if we've learned anything in the last few months, it's that powerful people view property and money as more important than people. Cinemark's reopening is well underway and I'm presuming even a further massive spike in cases of COVID-19 won't cause either movie theaters or movie studios to press pause on their reopening plans. Big companies want some form of "normalcy" to return and that takes precedent above all else. Keeping that in mind, what polices is Cinemark instituting to try and combat Coronavirus cases? Well, per Deadline, these are the biggest anti-COVID-19 polices Cinemark is putting into place at their locations:

–Employees will undergo extensive training prior to reopening and will wear face masks and gloves while working, in addition to a complete wellness check-in prior to each shift. –Each theatre will also have a designated Chief Clean and Safety Monitor on duty to ensure the highest standards of safety, physical distancing, cleanliness and sanitization. –Moviegoers are being encouraged to purchase tickets online and use a contactless payment method, eliminating the need for paper tickets. –Cash payments are no longer accepted at food-handling areas, but each multiplex will have a designated area where cash will be accepted, and gift cards will be available. –All public and high-touch spaces, such as concession stands, door handles, drink stations, self-ticketing kiosks, benches and restrooms will be thoroughly sanitized every 30 minutes using products identified by the EPA to be effective in eliminating COVID-19. –Each auditorium will be disinfected every morning, and all handrails and occupied seats, along with those on either side, will be sanitized between show times. –All theaters will reopen with reduced operating hours and staggered showtimes to maximize physical distancing. –Moviegoers will be provided with seat wipes and ample hand sanitizer for use throughout theaters 
–Auditoriums will have limited capacities that meet or exceed local ordinances and the seats adjacent to parties will be automatically blocked upon ticket purchase.
 –Guests are highly encouraged to wear face masks and Cinemark will adhere to local laws that require residents to wear face masks in public. –Cinemark is employing new tactics to increase the fresh air intake to enhance the overall air quality of their venues and using High Efficiency Particulate Absorbing (HEPA) filtration in all vacuums.

Clearly, Cinemark is putting a lot of procedures in place to try and keep people safe, though the lack of enforcing masks is still a massive oversight. Meanwhile, there's also the question of programming. July 10 is when new movies start arriving and even then, we won't get a major blockbuster until Mulan on July 24. What will Cinemark locations be playing until then? If my local Cinemark, Cinemark Legacy, is any indication, then it'll be primarily classic movie titles with a sprinkling of features released in the first three months of 2020.

When Cinemark Legacy reopens on June 26, The Matrix and Mad Max: Fury Road will be playing on XD screens (those are Cinemark's equivalent to IMAX). Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Back to The Future, Get Out, Mean Girls, Jaws, Space Jam, The LEGO Movie and Wonder Woman are the pre-2019 titles populating the theater. Meanwhile, recent titles Jumanji: The Next Level, The Invisible Man, Sonic the Hedgehog and The Hunt will round out the location.

One trivial observation about these titles: most of them are Warner Bros. and Universal titles. All but one of the pre-2019 movies belong to those two studios, with Paramount Pictures release Mean Girls being the lone outlier. Universal makes up half of the newer releases, with Sony/Columbia's Jumanji and Paramount's Sonic making up the other half. Universal may have been challenging traditional theatrical releases with their recent devotion to premium video-on-demand titles like Trolls World Tour. However, they're clearly trying to boost up theatrical venues right now with a wide range of their classic titles.

Notably absent here is anything from Disney or its newest acquisition, 20th Century Studios. No word has been given for why Disney isn't supplying classic titles for movie theaters. Given that Disney has also mostly refrained from supplying drive-in locations with titles in the last three months, the studio may just be waiting for its new releases to arrive before it re-enters the theatrical marketplace. Plus, as we learned last year, Disney doesn't look kindly upon classic movies being viewed in theatrical venues.

Anywho, those are the new rules and movies playing at Cinemark locations starting this Friday. Will people show up? That's anybody's guess. However, back on June 4, the iPic theater in Fairview, Texas opened back up to the general public. While the classic movies they played had varying degrees of success, their lone 2020 release, The High Note, consistently drew sold-out crowds. That's only a single movie at a single location, so it can't be perceived as a showcase that all movie theaters will see sold-out shows from here on out. But it does indicate there is still plenty of interest in viewing movies theatrically. Personally, I'd say movie theaters won't have any trouble whatsoever luring people back into theaters. In fact, I'd say there's a massive demand for these locations to return.

The problem is whether or not it's a good idea to reopen spaces where numerous people are crammed into small rooms while nearly 20% of the United States (including my own state of Texas) is reporting new highs for Coronavirus case averages. People want to return to theaters but, right now, with no cure for COVID-19 in sight, that's really not something that's in the best interest of public health.

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