Movie Theaters in a Pandemic

Movie Theaters in a Pandemic

Renee Prvulov

December 29, 2020


Due to Covid-19, movie theaters across the nation have been closed for months. As a result, many people sought out other ways to stream movies for entertainment. For example, drive-ins rose in popularity as new ones erected all over the country. Additionally, more new movie titles are available to stream from the comfort of our homes. Unfortunately to the theater industry, this prompted fairly slow reopenings including the MJR theater in Macomb, Michigan. Haley Turpin, an Oakland University student and MJR supervisor, was excited to return back to work after months had passed by. 

In her opinion, one of the reasons for few people going to theaters is the limited selection of movies that are out right now. There aren’t many movies out to incentivise people to go out and see a movie on the big screen. 

On Oct. ninth, many theaters in Michigan reopened, bringing new rules and regulations centered around allowing people to go out and have fun but also stay safe. Concurrently, some changes have been adapted to protect employees and customers at MJR. Masks are required in all common areas until customers are in their seats. Once customers are seated, they may take them off to watch the movie. If they get up at any point, to get a refill or use the bathroom, a mask is required. Additionally, all self-serve stations are closed. Employees are responsible for filling cups with pop, handing out napkins and straws, as well as applying butter and/or salt to the popcorn for customers. 

At Turpin’s place of work, some customers have tried to grab the bottle of butter themselves. If they touch it, she is required to throw it away, no questions asked. Employees wear masks and gloves. They also are required to go through and thoroughly clean each theater before shows, sanitizing each seat. Consequently, in order to do this properly, the number of movies shown in a typical day decreased. The number of seats sold per show have been decreased as well, leaving a gap between each group for social distancing.  

“I think they are [MJR] taking enough precautions, the only times I feel unsafe at work is when a customer doesn’t follow the precautions we have set in place such as not covering their nose with their mask,” said Turpin.

Thankfully, most customers follow the new precautions. Turpin admitted that she initially expected more complaints from customers. While there have been a few isolated incidents, for the most part customers have been courteous. 

After movie theater employees have waited patiently for things to open back up, they will have to wait a little longer. On Nov. 15, as the number of covid cases surged, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued another three-week shut down, closing all theaters. Turpin and her coworkers worry movie theaters will go out of business, unable to maintain costs during the shut-down. 

“I’m sad that we have to close again, but I understand the Governor’s concerns. I just hope that after three weeks, we can open up again,” said Turpin. 


Renee Prvulov is a senior majoring in professional writing with a minor in creative writing for fiction. She is a consultant at the writing center and a publishing intern for The Cube. She hopes to attend a publishing institute after graduation, and find a job editing at a publishing company. To destress, she loves to read, write, and binge watch on Netflix.