Reopen North Carolina Movie Theaters

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Currently all movie theaters in North Carolina remain closed in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Although theaters are not essential for physical health, the chance for a short escape through film has immense mental health benefits for theater patrons. Theaters are also crucial fixtures to their communities, often anchoring and supporting the surrounding businesses. Nothing in current circumstances is fully risk-free, but the approval of several higher risk facilities does make it seem like the movie theater industry in North Carolina is being unfairly targeted.

During Phase 1, public transportation, grocery stores, and big box stores remained open during the stay at home order. In Phase 2, beauty salons, pools, daycares, overnight camps, and indoor restaurants could also reopen. Now in Phase 2.5, playgrounds, museums, aquariums, bowling alleys, and even gyms are permitted to reopen. In many of these situations, people are in close physical contact with one another, share equipment, and stay in closed spaces with questionable ventilation for long periods of time. Movie theaters do not have any of these risk factors.

North Carolina movie theaters have now been closed for 6 months. From the approximate 200 North Carolina theaters, several have already announced that they will not be able to reopen their doors. The remaining theaters continue to wait for the approval to reopen, which has been repeatedly pushed back. The window for recovery of the remaining theaters is shutting as you read this. North Carolina is one of only a handful of states still barring movie theaters from reopening, all of the others far denser in population.

In terms of safety, it is incredibly simple for theaters to implement social distancing by seating and enforce mask rules. With business-hours and after-hours cleaning staff already part of the theater business model, sanitation measures are easily met. The National Association of Theatre Owners launched nationwide safety standards at Most modern cinemas are also equipped with separate HVAC systems in each auditorium assisting with clean air circulation. It has also been noted that facing the same direction (as one does in an auditorium) drastically reduces risk. As the state considers allowing fans to attend Carolina Panthers games, I believe more thought should go into helping the thousands of theater workers who have been jobless since March and local small business-owners who operate North Carolina's many independent theaters.

I am requesting that all movie theaters in North Carolina be allowed to reopen immediately as long as they adhere to CDC guidelines, such as limiting and distancing customers in locations, and strictly enforcing sanitation guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.