Illinois Movie Theater Owners Lobby For Larger Audiences

ILLINOIS — More than 6,000 people work in movie theaters in Illinois, which is why the National Association of Theater Owners wants to make changes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan.

In the governor’s five-phase reopening plan, movie theaters won’t be able to reopen until Phase 4, which could begin on June 26 if current COVID-19 trends continue. The governor’s plan also caps gatherings at 50 people.

Chris Johnson, president of the Illinois chapter of the National Association of Theater Owners, said the 50-person limit is unrealistic.

“As long as we can social distance, 6-feet between groups, let’s not have a hard number and let’s do it according to the auditorium size,” Johnson said.

Johnson said trends to replace stadium seating with recliners in many theaters had already reduced seating capacity in theaters by 60 percent, and adding a 50-person limit would be more difficult for theater operators.

In a statement, the organization said the movie theater business is vital to the economy, supporting thousands of jobs across the state, and providing a major source of employment for teens.

Moviegoers should expect movie theaters to have a different look when they reopen. The National Association of Theater Owners said that employees will have temperature checks before each shift, everyone will be wearing masks, social distancing will be the norm and showtimes will be staggered.

Johnson said customers may have to watch reruns for a while because the major studios are holding on to the blockbusters until theaters begin to fill up.

The Center Square – Kevin Bessler

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