As movie theaters continue to re-open in the United States, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) on Aug. 21 announced a voluntary nationwide set of health and safety protocols adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic era, which will be used in theaters including the Sun & Surf Cinema in Ocean City, Md.
CinemaSafe — a set of health and safety protocols based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines — was developed over several months by a team of industry experts in consultation with leading epidemiologists (www.CinemaSafe.org).
John Fithian, president and CEO of NATO, said, “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. This unprecedented industry-wide effort is a promise designed to meet that need.”
As of Aug. 21, more than 300 companies, comprising more than 2,600 locations and more than 30,000 screens across the United States, have signed on to the protocols, with more signing up every day. Participating theaters commit to meet or exceed the voluntary protocols. Those theaters may display the CinemaSafe badge and protocols on their websites, and soon, at their theater locations.
David F. Goldsmith, an occupational and environmental epidemiologist at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, having reviewed the CinemaSafe protocols, observed, “It is important to note that, in my review of the medical literature, not a single case of COVID-19 has been traced to a movie theater around the world, either before the shutdown, or since theaters have re-opened in many countries and some U.S. states.
“These protocols, and the way they were developed, demonstrate a serious, comprehensive effort by movie theater owners to examine every aspect of their operations, identify potential risks, and reduce them. Their emphasis on the health and safety of their employees is an indication of their preventive commitment to moviegoer safety.”
Sun & Surf Cinema, which is currently open as a drive-in movie theater, also announced its participation in the CinemaSafe program.
“With our parking lot drive-in, customer safety is our focus. Our commitment to CinemaSafe protocols assures the public that we are doing everything possible to ensure a healthy return to the movies!” said Fox Theatres’ Vicki Graff.
The Sun & Surf Drive-In experience offers movie-goers the chance to see summer classics, recent releases and family favorites from the privacy and comfort of their own vehicle. They can buy tickets in advance and order concessions when they arrive using the mobile-friendly website, or buy at the concession stand.
General admission costs $12.50 and children pay $8.50. Passes will not be accepted. The first showing starts at dusk. Check the theater’s ticketing page for exact showtimes. Moviegoers should arrive no more than 30 minutes before showtime, and they are asked to purchase tickets for all occupants of each vehicle under one transaction.
The Sun & Surf Pop-Up Drive-In features a 35-by-15-foot screen on the rear side of the building with the same digital projection as inside the theater. Audio is broadcast via FM transmitter. The channel will be given upon entry. Sun & Surf staff recommend bringing a portable radio to save the car battery. There are no FM tuner smartphone apps that will pick up the channel.
Moviegoers are asked to wait until they arrive at the Drive-In and are in their assigned parking space to place concessions orders. They can then order concessions through the mobile-friendly website, indicating their parking space number, and staff will deliver the items to the vehicle.
Concessions can also be purchased at the concession stand inside the theater. Only one person per vehicle at a time will be allowed at the concession stand, and a mask must be worn. Moviegoers are also being asked to help keep the Drive-In clean by taking trash with them or using the trash receptacles placed throughout the parking lot.
Restrooms are available in the theater lobby. Social distancing applies, and masks are required. Restrooms will be disinfected frequently, and occupancy is limited.
Drive-In viewers can keep their cars on as long as the headlights are off. Interior vehicle lights should be off so they do not cause a distraction to other customers. People may view the movie from inside their car, from the bed of a truck, from the rear of a van or SUV or from chairs in front of the vehicle in rows A and C, as long as there is a 6-foot distance from the occupants of the next parking space.
Moviegoers should remain at their vehicle to watch the movie, except for using restrooms or purchasing at the concession stand. Social distancing is a must in-person and in between cars, and masks must be worn when away from the vehicle. Moviegoers are asked not to congregate with people who did not arrive in their vehicle.
“We are strictly following all CDC guidelines and orders from state and local health departments. High contact surfaces will be cleaned at regular intervals, employees will be given health screenings before each shift and will wear masks at all times,” Graff said. “Please maintain a 6-foot distance from guests not in your parking space.
“Masks are required when entering the building. Guests are encouraged to use hand-sanitizing stations when entering and exiting the building. Alcohol, drugs and smoking of any kind, including e-cigarettes, is strictly prohibited. Pets are not permitted. All movies are rain or (star)shine, with no refunds. “Rainchecks” will only be given if there is a mechanical disruption in service after the movie starts.