Alexandria, VA – There’s good news and there’s bad news. Bad news first: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced last month that the ultimate film-accolades event, the Oscars, will be moved to April 21, thereby delaying the grand finale of the Hollywood awards season by two months.
The pushed-back date is both cautionary and practical. There may be less threat that COVID-19 social distancing measures will preclude the ceremony, of course, but the extended time frame also permits film premiers and post production work postponed or suspended in 2020 to catch up.
Waiting has become the new normal. Sports aficionados have seen basketball and hockey regular season games, playoffs, and finals suspended; there is still no start in sight for America’s national pastime, and even football coming in fall is in question. It has been no less disappointing for film fans.
The good news is that for moviegoers the show will go on. On June 18, a day after the new Oscars date was announced, AMC Theaters announced that on July 15 the largest movie theater chain in the country plans to reopen some 450 locations. These openings represent more than 90 percent of the AMC moviegoing business. AMC expects to fully re-open by the end of the month.
The first film to be released will be Disney’s Mulan redux, a live-action feature reimagined from the classic 1998 full-length animation.
Warner Brothers is dropping Christopher Nolan’s long-awaited Tenet, an espionage thriller with John David Washington, star of BlacKkKlannsman, and Rob Pattinson of Twilight saga fame tasked with saving the planet from World War III.
Other films scheduled for release in July are Unhinged with Russell Crowe, My Brother’s Crossing, The Broken Hearts Gallery (a new twist on a romantic comedy with Bernadette Peters), and the art film St. Maude.
AMC plans to screen popular film classics as offerings become available for July and late summer release. Retro anniversary film screenings will include Babe, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ghost, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s no leap of faith know these films constitute great entertainment. The question is how theaters will create a safe, socially distant environment.
To ensure an individual bubble of protection for movie-goers, AMC consulted with Harvard School of Public Health experts and Clorox to implement a cleaning and safety directive that meets the highest levels of local, state, and federal COVID-19 protocols. Contactless ticketing, reserved spaced seat restrictions, constant cleaning methods, and mobile concessions ordering are being ramped up. Theaters have installed MERV 14 air-ventilation filters, added HEPA filter vacuum cleaners, and purchased electrostatic sprayers as part of the “Safe & Clean“ AMC experience.
But AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron created a controversy when he indicated that the company will not require face masks. In a Variety interview, Aron said, “We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy… We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who felt strongly that it is not necessary.”
At the same time California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered masks to be worn in public at all times, outdoors and indoors. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has also signed an executive order mandating mask-wearing in public. Health experts have repeatedly emphasized the indisputable advantages of utilizing face masks as protection against spreading the coronavirus. Aron admitted that he would elect to wear a face mask in the theaters and that he expected most patrons would do so also. Neither Regal Cinemas nor Cinemark Theaters, the second and third largest U.S. film entertainment assets, plan to require face masks.
When asked to comment on the AMC policy statement, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reacted harshly in a Tweet: “Anyone making wearing masks a political issue is an absolute moron who can’t read.” Parodying what the actor-turned-politician once said concerning the environment: We have to find a way to make mask-wearing sexy.
In the meantime, going to the movies will be back. And that’s good newZ for us all.