Going to the movies is one of the most popular pastimes in the United States. However, when COVID-19 began, closing movie theaters became a necessary reality. After months of being closed, U.S. cinemas are finally starting to reopen, much to the delight of millions of Americans. That said, going to the movies isn’t going to be exactly like it used to. With new COVID-19 protocols to follow and social distancing measures in place, going to a movie theater in 2020 will be a slightly different experience, albeit one that is safe and still enjoyable. 

Randal Gindi of Brooklyn, New York, is a real estate investor, devout family man, benevolent friend, and avid movie goer. Among several companies he invests in and owns is a film company. Mr. Gindi provides his insight into what a return to U.S. cinemas will look like in 2020. 

Assigned Seating

According to Randal Gindi, assigned seating will be a new reality at cinemas across the country. Many people were already used to choosing their own seats in newer, larger movie theaters. However, now this will be the norm everywhere you go. As much as possible, movie theaters are trying to give their guests the ability to reserve a specific seat in advance online. However, with some older theaters, this won’t be possible, so seats will have to be assigned manually by staff members. Regardless of the method, in order to ensure social distancing and to keep everyone safe, guests will no longer be able to walk into a theater and sit wherever they like. In line with assigned seating, certain seats in the movie theater will be blocked off to ensure there is always space between groups. 

Showtime Changes

Another aspect of U.S. cinemas that has been impacted by COVID-19 is showtimes. Guests will likely find fewer showtimes than were previously available, in order to give staff ample time to extensively clean and disinfect the theaters in between viewings. Staggered showtimes will also become the norm to limit the number of people in common areas, such as by the concession stand or in the hallway. Further, some movie theaters are going to be designating specific showtimes for different audiences. For example, just as many stores have designated their first hour of opening to senior shoppers, some theaters are designating certain screenings or showtimes to seniors as well, in order to limit the interaction these more vulnerable citizens have with younger people. In addition, Randal Gindi states that movie theaters are encouraging theater-goers not to arrive more than 15 minutes before the film begins, and if they do, to wait in their car. With reserved seats, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue and again is necessary to reduce the number of people in common areas at one time.  

Randal Gindi on Online Ticket Reservations and Contactless Concessions

The goal for U.S. cinemas and really all businesses during COVID-19 is to be as contactless as possible. Where possible, guests are being encouraged to purchase their ticket online rather than in person. If they do opt to buy the ticket in person when they arrive at the theater, then debit and credit cards are the preferred payment method, rather than cash where both the guest and the cashier must handle the money. In addition, contactless concessions are becoming increasingly popular, where only cards are accepted. Many concession stands have temporarily eliminated all self-serve stations such as condiments, popcorn butter, or popcorn seasonings. These toppings will still be available, but you must ask your cashier at the concession stand to do it for you. While it may sound like an inconvenience, many of these new policies are to ensure that staff and guests remain as safe as possible and will likely take very little time to get used to.