Many Americans Would Return to Theaters if New Protocols Were in Place

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Consumers want sanitizing measures and staggered seating, along with White House compliance, a new THR/Morning Consult poll finds.

More than half of Americans say they would take a trip to a theater within a month of their respective states meeting White House guidelines for reopening businesses — provided that movie theaters offer staggered seating and sanitize high-traffic areas.

Conversely, only 22 percent would consider making a trip to a cinema within the same time period if a state reopens early, according to a new Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll examining the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey of 2,200 people was conducted between April 22-26 as a number of states, including Texas, Florida and Georgia, lift shelter-in-place orders even if their locales don't satisfy benchmarks laid out by the White House earlier this month regarding the number of COVID-19 cases.

Nearly a fourth of Americans, or 22 percent, said they are likely to go to a cinema once a state has satisfied White House standards. That number improves dramatically when factoring in such measures as sanitizing seats (49 percent) and reducing capacity (45 percent).

Staggered seating and sanitizing high-traffic areas share equal import overall. Nearly half of Americans (49 percent to 45 percent) say they would go to the movies before their state meets Washington, D.C., requirements if they can be assured of those cleaning measures.

The combo of adhering by White House guidelines, sanitizing and staggered seating resulted in 53 percent to 51 percent of respondents saying they would likely to buy a movie ticket within the first month.

Potential moviegoers also welcome wearing face masks; 44 percent of those polled say they would be more likely to see a movie if they were wearing protective face gear once the White House standards are met. The requirement that employees wear both a mask and gloves is also welcome.

Americans between the ages of 18-29 — a demo that includes the most frequent moviegoers — appear to be the most inclined to return to the cinema across all categories, according to the poll.

The current hope in Hollywood is that cinemas will reopen in time for Christopher Nolan's Tenet on July 17. The vast majority of theater owners are on the same page, saying they will not reopen until the latter part of June. Circuits also understand that capacity may be reduced for a certain period of time post-pandemic.

A recent survey from UTA IQ, United Talent Agency's data and analytics group, found that nearly three out of four respondents among a group of 1,100 miss seeing a movie in cinemas.