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Opinion | When will Michigan movie theaters reopen? It's time to do it safely.

George Miller

The year 2020 will certainly find itself a dedicated section in future history books. This year has been incredibly challenging for all and the emotional and economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis continues to devastate families, businesses and industries alike. Some implications will soon be irreversible if we don’t do our part to reach a sense of normalcy soon.

Michiganders are hurting. It is as important as ever to have safe opportunities to enjoy pastimes that are low-risk and great reward. As the leader of a local nonprofit organization and former health officer of Oakland County, I urge the State of Michigan to consider reopening movie theaters safely.

I know from firsthand experience that the hometown movie theaters throughout our state are led by some of the most caring and selfless persons. I know their families and aspirations and understand the care they have for their communities. These business owners thrive in providing a family-friendly, safe environment for all people to experience the enjoyment of going to the movies. It’s in the delicious popcorn scent that fills your senses when you walk in the door, the friendly employees that staff the theaters, and the 90+ minute film that allows you to unplug and immerse in an escape. Michigan movie theaters can reopen safely.

Michigan is one of only seven states that has not reopened movie theaters or announced a reopening date. The perception of movie theaters has been muddied and compared to public buildings such as large concert venues. Visiting your local movie theater is no different than enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant or taking a trip to the grocery store with a few important exceptions. Movie theaters are equipped with superior ventilation systems, there is no talking or close interaction with those outside of your movie-going group and movement throughout the building is extremely limited.  Most importantly, theater owners have the means to ensure social distancing between unrelated parties.

Both nationally and statewide, the industry has collaborated and put together experts to devise a safe reopening plan. The health and safety of moviegoers, theater employees and surrounding communities is currently and will remain the top priority in operating once again. With guidance from public health officials and advisement from the CDC, the plan has been devised to keep everyone safe throughout the entire experience from top to bottom, from previews to credits.

The health and safety measures Michigan movie theaters are taking include, but often go beyond:

  • Requiring all customers and employees to wear a mask and practice social distancing when moving about the building
  • COVID-19 safety training and wellness checks upon the start of each shift for theater employees
  • All high-traffic spaces will be sanitized every 30 minutes
  • Each theater will undergo an extensive disinfectant process each morning, with stringent sanitizing occurring between each movie showing
  • Each theater within the buildings have a dedicated clean and safety monitor on duty to ensure the highest standards of safety for all customers
  • Capacity of the theaters have been reduced and seats adjacent to booked tickets will be blocked off to ensure social distancing
  • Theaters are also encouraging customers to purchase tickets online prior to showtimes to reduce encounters with others

I am confident in the movie theater industry’s safe reopening plans.

As the State of Michigan continues to keep businesses that are prepared to safely reopen without answers or a timeline, I encourage my fellow Michiganders to support initiatives to continue reopening our industries safely. For more information on how movie theaters are preparing to reopen and keep people safe, please visit

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