How Are Movie Theaters Adapting to COVID-19 in China?

They're going to the movies in China, but how are they keeping it safe? 

I would love nothing more than to go to the theater right now, but corona in America makes it unsafe and dangerous. That's why I am so annoyed and jealous that China seems to have its act together and has patrons returning to theaters.

In early August, Dolittle and a re-release of Interstellar were topping the box office and contributing to an overall $17.5 million across the country.

So how is China doing it? 

Well, they're trying to keep things as safe as possible.

There are seat limits on every theater, set with 30% capacity limitations. There are usually around two empty seats between patrons sitting in the audience. Watching a scary movie and don't want to be alone, some theaters have large stuffed animals called “MOMO” which are disinfected after each screening. You can hug them if you get scared. 

Patrons wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus and hold their hand to a temperature scanner before they can enter any theater. 

There are disinfectant crews in hazmat suits that spray before and after each show. 

Of course, even before the virus, things in China were different. Most Chinese movie theaters are new and more luxurious. They have spacious seats that are comfortable and many cities even have small VIP theaters where you can rent a private suite. 

Sounds nice...

One thing they've done is expand with technology. 

Paper tickets are now a thing of the past and everything is done within an app. Here's the hardest part, though: you can't take your mask off for any reason, including eating. Right now, there are no concession stands. In fact, all food and drinks are forbidden.

Ushers have the unfortunate task of enforcing these rules...I hope they are paid better than people in our country. I can't imagine a lot of these rules working in the US, which is why I think theaters will remain closed or be hazardous for the near future. 

Oh...and to track corona, every citizen in China has a QR code. This tells the government whether or not they've been sick or tested...authorities can trace if you've been in contact with someone who's had the virus or even in a location where someone with the virus was present. 

I don't think many democracies can get away with that.

But in China, things are getting back to "normal." 

In an Indiewire piece, one Chinese patron told them, “I think people feel very confident to go to movie theaters precisely because the government is using these kind of tracking measures." She asked not to be identified. 

Right now, I am not willing to trade democracy for Tenet, but that may change if I'm locked up with my roommates any longer. Then again, China has a history of locking up people in concentration camps.

But hey, China is going to see Tenet way before we do in America. And it doesn't look like their crimes against humanity are stopping studios from trying to make money abroad. 

Jing Hui, head of the Shanghai Association of Movie Theaters, said “[Christopher] Nolan is a very popular director in China whose films have been well-received here in the past...For our industry, big films like these are very important because they’re especially well-suited for watching in a movie theater, compared to lower-budget films that people might prefer to watch at home. Most of the big budget films are Hollywood movies, so I don’t think politics are going to play a significant role in this decision process.”

As you can see, things are different in China. They have some common-sense systems that the US could greatly benefit if it adopted them, but they also have QR codes on their citizens and complicated history of overreaching. 

It might be another few years before the US and other countries are able to safely add people to theaters. But hopefully, a vaccine is found before the QR codes kick in.      

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