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How Cinemark Plans to Reopen U.S. Movie Theaters During Coronavirus

CineMark move theatre is closed at
Matthew Lynch/CSM/Shutterstock

Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest movie theater chain, unveiled plans Wednesday to resume business in its U.S. locations. The company will begin a phased reopening starting with five cinemas in Dallas on June 19, with the rest of its theaters expected to return between July 3 and July 17.

Cinemark will reopen with enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols, including reduced showtimes, staggered seating, hand sanitizing stations and increased air filtration. Guests will be strongly encouraged, but not required, to wear face masks.

“If a particular state or county requires face masks, we will abide by that,” Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi told Variety. “We will strongly encourage it, but if the county or city has not deemed it a requirement, we will not require it on top of that.”

Employees, however, will have to wear face masks and gloves while working. They will also undergo extensive training and complete a wellness check-in prior to each shift. Cinemark is in the process of hiring back thousands of furloughed employees, one of which will be a designated chief clean and safety monitor at each venue. That person will be on duty to make sure physical distancing and cleanliness measures are being implemented.

At first, Cinemark will try to lure moviegoers back with classic titles like “Ghostbusters,” “Wonder Woman” and “Goonies” for reduced prices — running at $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. The chain hopes to be fully operational across the country by the time Disney opens “Mulan” on July 24 and Warner Bros. unveils “Tenet,” Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic, on July 31. Other new releases include the Russell Crowe thriller “Unhinged,” from Solstice Studio, on July 10, and Sony Pictures’ rom-com “The Broken Hearts Gallery” on July 17.

Cinemark has 345 theaters in the U.S. Zoradi says he’s not concerned that operating at a reduced capacity could limit cash flow for the company, which has been out of business for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Typically, a multiplex might dedicate four of its 16 screens to a new nationwide release, leaving the other auditoriums for holdovers in the marketplace. But since there’s not as much fresh content, venues can reserve eight to 10 screens for studios’ new offerings.

“On a typical week, exhibition operates at 50% capacity. The only time we would run into a capacity problem is opening night,” Zoradi said. “We will mitigate that by putting the big movie on more screens.”

Patrons will be encouraged to buy tickets online to reduce contact at the box office. Additionally, guests can request a full refund if they aren’t feeling well. Concession stand sales will be cash-free and offered for a discounted price.

“We know people want to come back to the movies,” Zoradi said. “It’s just a matter of making sure people feel secure and safe. That’s why we’ve taken so much time and effort and invested millions of dollars. We know it’s the right thing to do.”

Below are the measures Cinemark plans to implement:

  • 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 theatres will reopen with reduced operating hours and staggered showtimes to maximize physical distancing.
  • For additional assurance, there will be seat wipes and ample hand sanitizer available for customer use.
  • Auditoriums will have limited capacities that meet or exceed local ordinances and the seats adjacent to parties will be automatically blocked upon ticket purchase.
  • In accordance with CDC recommendations, guests are strongly encouraged to wear face masks.
  • Where applicable, Cinemark will adhere to local policies that require residents to wear face masks in public.
  • Cinemark will be employing new tactics to increase the fresh air intake to enhance the overall air quality of our theatres and using High Efficiency Particulate Absorbing (HEPA) filtration in all vacuums.
  • Cinemark has streamlined its in-theatre ticket verification processes, no longer requiring digital ticket holders to carry a paper ticket, and moviegoers purchasing tickets at the theatre will no longer need to hand their printed ticket to the ushers.
  • All are encouraged to purchase tickets online and use contactless payment methods for a more contact-free experience. Guests who are not feeling well are asked to stay home, and Cinemark will gladly provide a full ticket refund.
  • To help reduce potential contact between cash and food-handling areas, cash payments will not be accepted at the concession stand. However, each theatre will have a designated area where cash will be accepted, and gift cards will be available.
  • There will be plenty of in-theatre signage that will encourage moviegoers to practice proper physical distancing as well as showcase the new protocols involved in The Cinemark Standard.
  • Moviegoers are asked to properly dispose of their trash to further protect our employees and allow for maximized cleaning between showtimes.

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