Illinois is on track for salons, some offices and outdoor seating at restaurants to open this weekend as the state moves into its next phase of reopening. The state’s movie theaters, which have been shut down since March, said Wednesday they want to welcome customers during that phase too.
While some businesses have seen fewer customers, Chris Johnson of the National Theater Owners Association of Illinois explained movie houses have seen none. Aside from some that distributed popcorn to drive-up customers in the early weeks of the pandemic, the movies have been at a standstill.
“This is gonna take years to come back to, not just to get up to where we were at, but to pay back the cash burn that [we] went through," Johnson said.
Johnson himself owns movie theater company Classic Cinemas. In the second quarter alone, he said he's lost 35 percent of his business and expects even more to follow in the third.
Unlike other businesses that can immediately serve customers upon reopening, theaters are reliant on new product from movie studios. Many studios are waiting for theaters in key markets, i.e. Illinois, New York, and California, to open back up so they can start marketing and distributing the latest flicks.
“We have to show that we’re open, in order to get the film companies to realize, “Ok, we have enough screens, we have enough mass, so now we can start releasing brand new movies," Johnson explained.
Though theaters here could open as early as June 26, Johnson said he’d prefer sooner to avoid studios passing them over.
The Theater Owners Association said it has a plan that would limit the number of moviegoers at one time, and require face marks for all customers and employees. But during a daily press briefing Wednesday, Governor J.B. Pritzker said the state’s plan for the movie industry is firm.
"I know that the theater owners would like it [reopening[ to be in Phase Three, [but] it’s very difficult to imagine it happening."