7 Bizarre Things You'll See When You Go to the Movies This Summer

The cinema won't look the same after coronavirus.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit three months ago, the entertainment industry—and movie theaters, specifically—have seen a devastating downturn. AMC, the world's biggest cineplex operator, reported a quarterly loss of $2.2 billion. In addition, only 13 percent of cinephiles said they'd rather watch a film in a theater versus at home, according to a new study from Performance Research and Full Circle Research Co. But, despite the empty seats and mournful marquees, the show must go on.

As lockdowns are lifted, movie theaters are planning their next moves. AMC, Regal, and Cinemark have announced that almost all of their locations will be operating by July. Before they reopen their doors, they are implementing new health and safety measures so guests feel comfortable coming back. On Tuesday, the California Department of Health released guidelines for theaters to follow as they debut on June 12. However, not everything will look the same as it did pre-pandemic. Here are all the strange changes you'll see the next time you go to the movies. And before you go to see the next blockbuster, check out 5 Things You'll Never See at Movie Theaters Again After Coronavirus.

Empty seats

empty movie theater seats

Long gone are the days of packed premieres. In order to reduce crowding, the guidelines recommend that cinemas operate at 25 percent capacity or admit a maximum of 100 guests, whichever is lowest. To follow social distancing precautions, seats can be roped off or removed, or every other row can be completely blocked. Another solution is seating people like a checkerboard, so each row is used but nobody is sitting directly in front of anyone else. It's also likely that reserved seat selection will become required so that way you can see the theater layout when you buy your movie tickets online or at a kiosk.

Timed entry

woman gives a movie ticket to a box office attendant

You won't be waiting in long ticket lines anymore either. Instead, a new online reservation system will be set up to limit congestion, especially during popular hours. Groups will be given designated, staggered arrival times both to the theater and to their specific screening. There will probably be more strict rules on late-arrivals, too, so make sure you're not tardy.


A young couple with an usher in a movie theater.

Movie theaters are taking a page out of Broadway's book by hiring ushers. These friendly staff members will hold doors open and walk people to their seats prior to previews as well as dismiss patrons row by row when the credits roll. This will help minimize traffic—plus, it's a nice nod to retro cinemas of yore. And for more movie-going options, check out the This Is the Safest Way to Go to the Movies Right Now.

Seat covers

Empty Movie Theater with covered seats

Sanitation is of utmost importance as businesses reopen. As such, movie theaters are overhauling their cleaning procedures. Officials recommend that cinemas use disposable or washable seat covers that can be replaced between showtimes. AMC is also implementing electrostatic sprayers, high-tech vacuums, and upgraded ventilation systems to ward off germs.

Mobile concession menus

Close-up on a customer making a contactless payment at the concession stand at the cinema using a cell phone

Sure, you'll still be able to get your popcorn and Pepsi, but the concession counter will be a bit different. For one, menus will be digital, so you can select your snacks and sodas online in advance. Then, you'll be alerted when your order is read for pick-up. By doing so, this eliminates dangerous snaking queues or common touch points, such as butter dispensers.

Discounted snacks

people eating popcorn

The prices of popcorn, candy, and drinks have skyrocketed in the last few decades. (Seriously, $8 for a bag of popcorn and $5 for a bottle of water? It's no wonder why so many people smuggle snacks in!) Now, in an effort to lure guests back, some movie theaters are slashing their concession prices. Cinemark CEO, Mark Zoradi, told The New York Times that there will be special promotions, welcome-back pricing, and other deals.

Face masks

Girl wearing mask in movie theater seat

It may seem like we've already been wearing face masks for an eternity, but that's not likely to stop anytime soon. Employees will be required to wear masks at all times, and movie-goers will be urged to wear face coverings in public areas or at any time when they're not eating or drinking. Theaters will have signs and posters explaining these safety measures as well. And for more ways the future of film will be different, check out why You May Never Be Able to Go to This Beloved Movie Theater Again.

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