By Jordan Nutting
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 18, 2020
During a typical summer, the most difficult question facing moviegoers might be whether to see the latest superhero flick or the big-budget war epic.
But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, going to the movies may feel less like a fun way to beat the heat and more like a game of chess.
Like many other businesses across the state, movie theaters are starting to reopen. The Fox Bay Cinema Grill in Whitefish Bay reopened on May 29, the first movie theater in the Milwaukee metro area to do so.
On Friday, the Marcus Corporation will reopen four theaters in Wisconsin. Reduced showtimes, checkerboard seating patterns and new food service policies are some of the changes Marcus is making to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
No matter what policies are in place, individual moviegoers will also play an important role in keeping these spaces safe and minimizing health risks.
“Movie theaters depend upon trusting those around us,” said Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece, an associate professor in the Film Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “You’re supposed to be quiet, you’re supposed to sit still, you’re not supposed to make noise, you’re not supposed to use your phone or talk to your friends, but in reality, that’s not what happens in the theater.”
As a result, people who are heading back to the movies need to follow public health guidelines — decide what risks are acceptable, said Amanda Simanek, associate professor of epidemiology at the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health at UWM.
Simanek, along with nine other female clinicians and researchers, helps run Dear Pandemic, a Facebook group where the moderators answer questions and provide up-to-date information on the COVID-19 pandemic.