After long stretches of staying closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s major movie theater chains reopened locations in recent months. And with capacity restrictions on businesses now …
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Public health officials strongly encourage anyone who is not fully vaccinated to wear a mask in indoor public settings and to avoid large gatherings.
Generally, indoor settings pose a higher COVID-19 risk than outdoor settings, particularly when social distancing is difficult and when customers are inside for extended periods of time, said the Colorado State Joint Information Center, which takes questions for the state public-health department.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the risks of certain activities depending on whether individuals are vaccinated. For unvaccinated individuals, movie theaters are considered one of the riskier activities.
See more information on that here.
Asked if a person can catch COVID-19 from sharing popcorn, candy or drinks at a theater, the joint information center said: “COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets, but it’s possible someone could touch a surface or food item that has the virus on it, and then touch their own mouth, nose or eyes.
“We do not believe COVID-19 commonly spreads this way, but we would recommend that unvaccinated individuals get their own food and beverage servings,” the center said.
Coloradans ages 12 and older can get vaccinated, and more than 1,400 vaccine providers are located across the state, according to the center. Find an appointment near you by visiting the state's vaccine page here.
The state’s COVID-19 website provides recommendations for COVID-19 safety for indoor event settings, which include movie theaters. The advice is not part of a public health order but illustrates “best practices,” the joint information center said. It's located here.
Here are some movie theaters that are listed as open:
• AMC Highlands Ranch 24 — 103 W. Centennial Blvd. (just west of Broadway and south of the C-470 highway)
• AMC Westminster Promenade 24 — 10655 Westminster Blvd. (north of 104th Avenue, just east of U.S. Highway 36)
• Aurora, AMC Arapahoe Crossing 16 — 6696 S. Parker Road in the east Centennial-Aurora area (north of Arapahoe Road)
• AMC Brighton 12 — 250 Pavilions Place (near Main and Egbert streets)
• AMC Castle Rock 12 — 3960 Limelight Ave. (near Meadows Parkway and Prairie Hawk Drive)
• Littleton area, AMC Bowles Crossing 12 — 8035 W. Bowles Ave. (east of Wadsworth Boulevard)
• Parker, AMC Twenty Mile 10 — 18625 Stage Run (east of Twenty Mile Road and north of Mainstreet)
*All AMC movie theatres in the Denver metro area are open, according to AMC.
• Westminster — 8905 Westminster Blvd. — north of 88th Avenue, west of U.S. Highway 36 (recently opened June 18)
• Littleton — 7301 S. Santa Fe Drive — at Aspen Grove Way (tentatively expected to open Aug. 13)
• Denver, Regal UA Colorado Center and IMAX — 2000 S. Colorado Blvd. (just south of Interstate 25)
• Sheridan, Regal River Point and RPX — 3565 S. Platte River Drive (south of U.S. Highway 285, to the east via River Point Parkway)
• Lakewood, Regal UA Colorado Mills IMAX and RPX — 14500 W. Colfax Ave. (near Colorado Mills Parkway)
• Centennial, Regal SouthGlenn — 6901 S. Vine St. (west of University Boulevard and south of Arapahoe Road)
• Lone Tree, Regal UA Meadows — 9355 Park Meadows Drive (east of Yosemite Street)
Cinemark (includes Century Theatres)
• Lakewood, Century 16 Bel Mar and XD — 440 S. Teller St. (east of Wadsworth Boulevard and south of Alameda Avenue)
• Century Aurora and XD — 14300 E. Alameda Ave. (east of Interstate 225)
• Arvada 14 — 5550 Olde Wadsworth Blvd. (south of Grandview Avenue)
After long stretches of staying closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s major movie theater chains reopened locations in recent months. And with capacity restrictions on businesses now lifted around the Denver metro area, the traditional moviegoing experience appears to be on its way to a full return.
It’s a change that could help people’s “reintegration” into socializing, said Vincent Piturro, a professor of film and media studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“If you haven’t seen friends in a year and a half: ‘Hey, let’s see a movie.’ It’s a sort of a soft landing for socialization,” Piturro said.
The Regal and Cinemark theater chains have reopened locations in Colorado, and nearly all of AMC’s Denver-area theatres reopened at the end of 2020 or in the first few weeks of this year. Those AMC theaters had closed in March 2020.
“I believe most or all reopened for a period of time in the summer and fall of 2020 and then closed again in accordance with local directives,” said Ryan Noonan, a spokesperson for AMC Theatres.
As of May 16 this year, several Denver metro counties are now operating in what they call “level clear,” generally with no local restrictions — and that’s likely to continue unless things take a turn for the worse. Some counties, such as Douglas, had already been living under no local restrictions.
AMC theater capacities are still slightly reduced, with ticketing systems blocking the spots on either side of a party’s seating — but aside from that small precaution, the theaters may remind crowds of how moviegoing felt before the pandemic.
Seeing movies again may serve as a “boon to our psyches” on the way to returning to normalcy, Piturro said.
“We’ve gone to movies our whole lives — we may not have gone to bars our whole lives or certain restaurants our whole lives,” but movies were a constant presence, Piturro said.
The return of in-person movies comes as a relief to an industry that took a big hit amid the pandemic, but it doesn’t mean theaters’ troubles are over.
“It’s one of those things where we have to step back and ask ourselves: How was the industry doing prior to the pandemic?” said Darrin Duber-Smith, an expert on marketing at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Streaming services, such as Netflix and Disney+, had served as competition for theaters long before the pandemic, Piturro said. Theater attendance was declining for several years before COVID-19, Piturro and Duber-Smith pointed out.
Fighting to adapt, theaters have made changes in recent years such as adding more-comfortable chairs and serving alcohol and higher-end food — trying to “increase the luxury,” Duber-Smith said.
One feature that “really took off during the past year” is AMC’s private theater rentals, said Noonan, the AMC spokesperson. That’s a program that allows customers to reserve an entire auditorium for a private party of up to 20 people.
“The moviegoing experience is just that: It’s an experience. It’s going out. It’s an event. You can’t duplicate that at home,” Piturro said, pointing to the “oohs and ahhs” and “the communal experience.”
In the long term, though, the pandemic may serve as “a nail in the coffin” for the theater industry in its current form, Duber-Smith said.
Amid changing consumer habits, he’s expecting a “bailout,” where movie-production companies will “vertically integrate” by buying out theaters, keeping them running so movie producers can still profit from them.
“Is (the industry) going to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels? I don’t think so,” Duber-Smith said, adding that even the pre-pandemic level of activity wasn’t adequate.
Piturro, the film professor, takes a more optimistic view, arguing that movies aren’t going to have to compete with online services but, rather, will compete with other forms of in-person entertainment such as baseball games or the opera.
“I see younger crowds (likely) going to the movies in record numbers and the older crowd, without kids, going back to the theaters as well, especially whose kids have left the home,” Piturro said. “The wild-card is the middle-age demographic: those with kids at home. Will they go out to the movies? They were the group that stayed home in bigger numbers in the pre-COVID years. This is the group that we are unsure about, and this is the group that other entertainment venues will vie for.
“Still, either way, I see a positive trend in moviegoing in the near future,” Piturro said, noting that “the long-term prospects are a bit cloudier.”
Piturro envisions theater crowds having a “spillover effect,” bringing more patrons to nearby bars and restaurants before or after they attend a movie.
“I think that’s healthy for the overall economy,” Piturro said.
Duber-Smith expressed skepticism about whether increased numbers of theater patrons will help shopping centers to rebound, though. He expects the theater industry itself to shrink although some theaters may expand.
“Overall, I think you’re going to see a reduction in the number of movie theaters,” Duber-Smith said.
People won’t fully return to movie theaters in the next few months, Piturro expects. He noted his own concerns about COVID-19 even though he’s been fully vaccinated for several months.
“It’s my job to watch movies for a living, and I haven’t been to a theater yet,” Piturro said, noting fears of virus variants. “I’m planning to come back to theaters in the fall for sure.”
For now, he’s anticipating delving back into that environment.
“For me, there’s nothing better than sitting in a dark theater … getting lost in a world for 2 1/2 hours is really one of the great experiences for me,” Piturro said.
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