Indoor Cinemas in San Diego and Sacramento Ordered to Reclose Amid Spike in COVID-19 Cases

Movie Theater Interior
LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

The news follows movie theater reclosures across Europe.

Indoor movie theaters in San Diego and Sacramento are among public-facing businesses ordered to close down again due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

California Secretary of Health and Human Mark Ghaly announced the edict on Tuesday in a setback for the film and exhibition industries as they try to mount a box office recovery despite the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. The bright news: the World Health Organization on Monday said life might begin to resemble normal by March or April upon Pfizer Inc.'s announcement that its vaccine is showing a 90 percent success rate.

In recent years, Sacramento and San Diego have ranked among the top 20 moviegoing markets in the country. Cinemas in San Diego were among the first to reopen in California, albeit at dramatically reduced capacity (25 percent or 100 people per auditorium, whichever is less.)

The list of counties in California that have allowed cinemas to reopen had been slowly growing, although Los Angeles, the top moviegoing market in the country, remains dark. (New York City, which is No. 2, is also still off limits.) All told, just 48 percent of U.S. theaters were up and running as of this past weekend, according to Comscore.

The international box office has recovered more quickly, although cinemas in some European countries have been reordered to reclose in recent days because of an uptick in cases.

In California, both Sacramento and San Diego moved from the "red tier" back into the "purple tier." Stanislaus county also moved from red to purple.

Ghaly said that dozens of other California counties could see their status change if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb. He noted that the state's seven-day positivity rate is currently 4.2 percent, the highest since late summer.