Movie theaters hopeful for late July re-opening

Wonder Woman 1984” is scheduled to open on Aug. 14. / Warner Bros.

If like me you’ve been jonesing to once again watch movies on the big screen, there seems to be light at the end of the coronavirus-infected tunnel.

Earlier this week word began to leak that theaters are considering re-opening in mid to late July, and that seems to jive with the announcement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s three-phase guidelines to reopening the country that was publicly announced Thursday by President Trump.

According to the guidelines, a state would have to enter into Phase 1 before theaters could open and would have to operate with strict physical-distancing protocols. In Phase 2, theaters could operate with moderate physical-distance protocols, and in Phase 3, theaters could operate under limited physical-distancing protocols.

Cinemark Theaters of Plano, Texas, which does not have theaters in Northwest Arkansas, is the first chain to state tentative plans to reopen on July 1 on a limited basis with each theater following local government regulations, according to a report from “Deadline”.

It’s hard to know what that means for AMC and Malco, the two chains that service movie-goers in Northwest Arkansas. Neither company’s home offices are returning calls. It would seem logical that both would follow similar re-opening plans to the ones announced by Cinemark, but there could be extenuating circumstances.

Malco’s home office is located in Memphis, which currently is a hot spot for the Covid-19 virus. It’s unknown if that would be an issue in re-opening theaters in other locals where the virus is not as pervasive? Of course, July is still two and half months away. Two and a half months ago, a lot of us hadn’t even heard of the coronavirus yet. By July, things may have calmed down a great deal.

As for AMC, its financial struggles could hamper efforts for its theaters to re-open; however, the Chinese corporation Wanda Group, which owns the largest percentage of AMC stock at 38 percent, issued a statement that word of AMC going bankrupt was “pure rumor,” according to stories in “The Hollywood Reporter” and “Variety“.

In light of what we’ve learned about China and its transparency with the coronavirus, a rumor might be more reliable than an official statement coming from one of the nation’s corporations.

But if all goes well, we may once again have big-screen viewing opportunities sometime in July, but what will there be to watch since many major movies have pulled up stakes and moved their films until later in the year?

“Deadline” reported that theaters and film studios are in negotiations to bring popular movies of the past to the theaters again at reduced prices to coax patrons back into the theaters. Films like Harry Potter series, “Back to the Future,” “Avatar,” “Interstellar,” and “Avengers: Endgame” were mentioned in the story.

Two major tentpole films are still scheduled to open in July. Disney moved its live-action “Mulan” remake from March to July 24, and director Christopher Nolan’s next picture for Warner Bros. “Tenet” is scheduled to open July 17. Both films are expected to have epic scopes and mass appeal.

I’m looking forward to both, as well as Warner Bros. “Wonder Woman 1984,” which is now scheduled to open in the U.S. on Aug. 14.

Obviously, with some portions of the country facing more difficulties than others with the virus, theaters could open in some states before others. It may take large-population areas like New York and California longer to work through the phases process than states say in the Southwest.

The question I have is if studios would allow films like “Mulan” or “Wonder Woman 1984” to open in less densely populated areas if movie theaters in Los Angeles and New York aren’t yet operational? Or would they hold the films for later when for a better immediate box-office return?

I love watching movies in theaters. I have a nice big-screen TV at home, but I’m never able to invest my full attention into a movie on TV. Something else always grabs my attention. In a theater, in the dark and quiet, movies can whisk me away in ways they never do at home.

Under normals circumstances, I’d enjoy going to see older favorites on the big screen with a great sound system, especially for a reduced price.

However, as a person who falls into a higher-risk category if I contracted the virus, I’m not sure I would rush out to the theater to watch a film I had seen before and probably have on Blu Ray anyway.

That’s my feelings at the moment, and again I love to go to movies. I honestly would go everyday if I had the time and money, and most importantly if it were safe.

Making the public feel safe gathering together is going to be the biggest challenge and hurdle for all forms entertainment to maneuver as we come out of the coronavirus culture we are currently abiding in.

We may be so feed up with being cooped up that we will flood back into theaters, restaurants, music halls, and sports venues. Or we might be a bit more discerning about where we want to go, how many people we want to be around, and how close we want to be to them.

I think as we move forward we are all going to be more cognizant of things that we didn’t give a ton of thought to in the past. Going to the movies will just be one of them.