Source: Skip Bolden/Solstice Studios


As cinemas continue to reopen across the US the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has launched a voluntary set of health and safety protocols.

CinemaSafe is based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and was developed over several months by a team of industry experts in consultation with leading epidemiologists.

At time or writing NATO said more than 300 companies comprising more than 2,600 locations and more than 30,000 screens across the US had signed on to the protocols.

Solstice Studios opens its first release Unhinged starring Russell Crowe this weekend and has targeted 2,000 sites in North America. The film, the first wide release of a new feature in the US since cinemas shut in mid-March, has grossed approximately $8m from international markets so far.

NATO president and CEO John Fithian 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 theatre they visit. This unprecedented industry-wide effort is a promise designed to meet that need.”

The protocols include:

Masks – mandatory wearing of masks for all cinema employees and patrons while in the auditorium and common areas of the cinemas, with exceptions for to health issues and children under two;

Social distancing – appropriate physical distancing must be maintained at all times between patrons, except members of the same household or those that attend together;

Reduced capacity – cinemas will explore options to minimise the number of patrons in an auditorium;

Air Filtration –HVAC systems should be in working order with increased ventilation whenever possible;

Modified concessions – Minimise cash transactions and encourage credit card or contactless payments. Eliminate communal food and condiments that require shared serving utensils or equipment;

Mobile ticketing – tickets sales should be available online or via phone whenever feasible to reduce queuing. Alternatives to paper tickets should be sought;

Frequent hand-washing –employee training on hand-hygiene practices; employees encouraged to wash hands frequently;

Hand sanitiser – hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol (EPA approved ethanol or isopropyl) to be made easily accessible with hand hygiene signage;

Enhanced cleaning – disinfecting between screenings; high-touch surfaces should be wiped down periodically with EPA-registered disinfectant; and

Employee health training – All employees should be trained on the signs and symptoms of Covid-19 as well as local theatre policies and procedures.

Dr. David F. Goldsmith, an occupational and environmental epidemiologist at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, reviewed the CinemaSafe protocols, and said, “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 theatre around the world, either before the shutdown, or since theatres 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 theatre 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.”

Dr. Joyce Sanchez, an infectious disease specialist and director of the Travel Health Clinic at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin as well as an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, also examined the protocols.

“The CinemaSafe protocols include physical distancing, limited capacity in auditoriums, mandatory mask wearing, frequent disinfection of surfaces, specific safety training for employees and optimization of HVAC systems. They also offer a touchless experience.

“As far as duration, the length of a feature cannot be controlled. However, the length of a movie is similar to the amount of time spent on a domestic flight or dining at a restaurant. While every activity outside the home carries risks, these additional measures can help to mitigate them.”

The full CinemaSafe protocols are available here.