After more than a year of massive closures and several months of carefully social-distanced screenings, movie theaters across the country are slowly coming back to life. If you’ve been to an indoor movie theater in recent months, you’ve probably seen a handful of employees decked out in PPE milling about to set off foggers and wipe down every surface in each cinema between screenings. But that sight could soon become a thing of the past.
As Variety reports, the National Association of Theatre Owners recently updated its “CinemaSafe” guidelines to do away with its mandate that each theater be thoroughly disinfected between screenings. Which doesn’t mean that they no longer care about the health of their patrons; the new rules simply stipulate that theater owners should be following current CDC, state, or local guidelines when it comes to cleaning up. At the moment, the CDC recommends giving theaters a thorough cleaning once a day.
Before you start screaming and vow to never visit a movie theater again, it’s worth noting that the big show made of disinfecting each theater likely didn’t make much of a difference anyway: The CDC has put the odds of contracting COVID through surface transmission at one in 10,000—or roughly the same as being struck by lightning. Even so, many theater owners know that peace of mind is now just as important as popcorn to the theatrical experience, so most theaters are continuing to be overly cautious.
“We’re still spraying between shows,” Jeff Logan, president and CEO of the South Dakota-based Logan Luxury Theaters Corporation told Variety. “We’ve got to maintain public confidence.”
Whether this trend will continue into the summer—when many studios are planning to mount their big theatrical comebacks, and theaters hope to recoup much of what they’ve lost, revenue-wise, in the past year—remains to be seen. For now, says Logan, “We’re just going to make darn sure everyone feels safe.”