How are theatres safely reopening?

Many enjoy going to theatres. Plays, movies, live music, performances, comedy shows, you name it. This isn’t just conjecture, ask anyone. The smell of popcorn, the dark red curtains, and whatever is being presented is a favorite pastime for the American people. But, since COVID-19 hit, theatres have either been closed or running at extremely low capacities. So, how can the pastime that we all enjoy safely return, as this activity slowly reenters our lives, along with so many others? 

Stating the obvious, theatres, places where you are often seated within close proximity to others, aren’t exactly the best place to go during a pandemic. But, there are many ways theatres can protect the patrons and staff. Diana Martinez, the director of College of DuPage’s McAninch Arts Center, outlined an entire slew of precautions on how they are planning on keeping their theatres safe, as they slowly begin to reopen plays and productions.

Some of the precautions outlined include temperature checks, occupancy reductions, social distancing, hand sanitizer stations, and touchless tickets. All of this will also follow the “CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines,” to maximize safety for all. This is also all done with careful consideration, and “studies that have been done in Europe” have been used in calculating which precautions to focus on and use, Ms. Martinez says. 

Many other theatres, namely larger movie theatres, have been taking similar precautions to protect their patrons and staff. Most large chains, 435 total, representing 3200 locations nationwide have all agreed to CinemaSafe, which is a set of guidelines, including requiring masks, socially distancing, reducing capacity, improving air filtration, and mobile ticketing, to improve the health of all who enter the theatres. 

As for our own school, “There are no plans to change course. Our audience members will be able to enjoy Glenbard West Theatre’s spring musical Bright Star from the comfort and safety of their homes on May 7 & 8 at 7:30 p.m. and May 9 at 2:00 p.m.,” says Mr. Fox, the director of the upcoming play.

He informed me that changes have been made for “all aspects of [West’s] previous” plays this year, but, the production is slowly being shifted in person for the actors and crew in person, in the theatre itself, as the viewers can still enjoy the play from home. Hopes are that “next year’s fall production can be performed” in front of a live West audience. 

In case you are at all interested in seeing a play, movie, musical, concert, or any other production available at your nearby indoor venues, the CDC has outlined some suggestions. If in large gatherings, for instance, wear a mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, and wash hands. If you are more interested in staying home, that’s fine too.

Many plays, musicals, and movies are available to stream online. Ms. Martinez stated that “the arts transcend boundaries and bring people together, and we need that more than ever!” I couldn’t agree more, and if done safely, theatres provide a great way to slowly emerge from our quarantine bubbles.