America is roughly five months into quarantine, and by any metric, our country has failed to contain the virus, boasting the most virus cases to date of any country. Yet it seems that many feel like the pandemic is over, and have resumed their normal summer activities, freely ignoring mask wearing and social distancing rules.
Movie theaters are also slowly reopening, but with no summer blockbusters to draw (hopefully social-distanced) crowds, there is little they can do to convince theatergoers to return to what the L.A. Times’ Mary McNamera called the “cinematic equivalent of an open bar”. Enter AMC, who, to celebrate their centennial, are offering 15-cent tickets (what it cost in 1920s to go to the movies) in select locations on opening day (Aug. 20 in Massachusetts).
While this marketing ploy is under the guise of an anniversary, it’s very clear that it exists solely for one reason: To lure people back into movie theaters. AMC is taking precautions by reducing crowd sizes, replacing condiment displays with antibacterial gel kiosks, and eliminating popcorn and beverage refills, but it doesn’t change the fact that movie theaters are essentially huge sealed boxes, and while mask wearing greatly helps mitigate the spread of the virus, the risk of getting it is almost never zero percent. And as we’ve seen this summer across the country, there is no way to even guarantee mask compliance.
People returning to theaters has one clear outcome: More people will get infected, and more people will die. If handled well — and if theatergoers universally wear masks — the number of people infected and who will die can be greatly reduced, but it is an inevitability that some will be affected in this way.
Perhaps concessions could be eliminated altogether, as there is no good way to eat with your mask on, and creating an environment where multiple groups of people eat facing the same direction in the same sealed box every day seems like a great way to efficiently gather multiple coronavirus samples, but not to create a safe theatergoing experience. And I do question why AMC is selling them at all. I know selling concessions is a key part of a theater’s revenue, but if you cannot allow for their safe consumption on the premises, they shouldn’t be there at all.
I know theaters like AMC need to make money, and truth be told, I miss theaters, and I wish I could safely enjoy the theatergoing experience. But like going to a ballpark, they’re not worth potentially losing your life over, or potentially killing others over by transmitting the virus — even for 15 cent movie tickets.
For now, cable and streaming will have to do.