RALEIGH— Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday modifications to his orders prohibiting certain businesses from re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, but North Carolinians still won’t be able to hit the local cineplex for new releases like Christopher Nolan’s next blockbuster “Tenet”, superhero horror trendsetter “New Mutants” or Academy Award winner Russell Crowe’s thriller “Unhinged.”
At an afternoon news conference, Cooper detailed the easing of some retail restrictions at the end of the week as the state moves to “Phase 2.5.”
Playgrounds, museums, and gyms are now able to open with strict measures in place, although gyms are restricted to open at only 30% capacity. Mass gathering limits increased from 25 to 50 people, and the indoor gathering limit moved from 10 to 25 people. However, bars, night clubs, movie theaters, indoor entertainment venues, and amusement parks are all ordered to remain closed.
Currently 44 states — including all of the states surrounding N.C. — have opened movie theaters.
As movie theaters come back to life elsewhere, the National Association of Theater Owners is helping to take the guess work out of safe operating practices in the era of COVID-19.
The trade organization announced a set of health and safety protocols based on research and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration. Over 300 companies representing more than 2,600 theater locations in the U.S. have already signed on to the CinemaSafe program.
“In this new pandemic world, moviegoers need to know that there is a consistent, science and experience-based set of health and safety protocols in place no matter what theater they visit,” said John Fithian, the association’s president and CEO, in a statement. “This unprecedented industry-wide effort is a promise designed to meet that need.”
The guidelines outline comprehensive mask policies, which are required for employees and patrons with a few exceptions for children under 2 years old and when consuming concessions — but only when approved by state and local health authorities. The rules state that masks should also be provided to employees who don’t have them.
They also sketch out recommendations for reduced capacity screenings, air filtration optimization, cashless concessions, mobile ticketing, enhanced cleaning policies and employee health training about hand hygiene and the signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
The association has been working for months to develop the rules in consultation with epidemiologists and industry experts. The organization’s executive board includes the leaders of the major exhibition chains, like AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Cineworld/Regal.
After almost five months of closure, national chain AMC Theaters is leading the charge to get Americans back to the movies. AMC opened some 113 locations across the U.S., advertising retro pricing and retro screenings to entice audiences back to the movies. Regal, the second largest exhibitor, is following suit.
AMC’s 24 North Carolina theaters remain closed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report