PHOENIX — Five months after closing at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, movie theaters in Arizona are beginning to reopen. The move comes as COVID-19 cases have trended downward for weeks and Maricopa County, along with seven other counties, have officially moved into the "moderate" phase of reopening.
Harkins Theatres, Alamo Drafthouse, and FatCats have all announced plans to reopen their theaters in Arizona, all with reduced capacity.
Last week, Harkins said it would reopen three of its movie theaters in northern Arizona. But, on Tuesday, shortly after the state announced that Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima counties would likely move to the "moderate" phase on Thursday, the Scottsdale-based theater chain said it would reopen all of its movie theaters on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.
(Editor's note: Pinal County remained in the "substantial" phase on Thursday when AHDS updated its dashboard. That means those businesses in Pinal County have to remain closed).
Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas also has plans to reopen its three dine-in cinemas in Chandler, Gilbert, and Tempe. Its Tempe location will open on Aug. 31, followed by Chandler and Gilbert on Sept. 3, said Adam Frost, director of operations for the Phoenix market.
FatCats, a multi-entertainment venue with an arcade, mini golf, and movie theaters, said it would reopen its auditoriums in Gilbert and Mesa on Friday, Aug. 28.
AMC Theatres began to reopen its theaters in other states on Aug. 20, but has not yet announced reopening plans for its Arizona locations. AMC did not respond to ABC15's request for comment or information.
Flix Brewhouse in downtown Chandler will also not open right away. "While we had hoped to resolve all the issues preventing Flix from reopening in time for Tenet on September 3, we have not been able to do that in Chandler. We are hopeful that as we keep working on these issues, we will be able to resolve them soon," a note on the theater's website read.
The openings all come as Hollywood's movie studios have begun releasing their anticipated films. Opening weekend films include Tenet, The New Mutants, and Unhinged.
“There is no question that this has been the most difficult time in my 50 plus years in the business. I am so excited and so appreciative of our incredible team and tremendously loyal guests that have continued to support us through this challenging time,” said owner Dan Harkins in a statement earlier this week.
"In Utah, our FatCats locations have been open for a while with movies, so we were really eager to get Mesa and Gilbert open, which coincides with new movies coming out which is like super serendipitous and perfect so we were really excited," said Trevor Cannon, marketing director at FatCats.
Under the state's mandated benchmarks, under the "moderate" category movie theaters, as well as some bars, water parks, and tube operators in Arizona, will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, and must follow a strict set of guidelines, including requiring face masks, employee temperature checks, and increased cleaning, among other requirements.
Bars that do not serve food cannot reopen until the state's COVID-19 percent of positivity reaches less than 3%.
Like many businesses, Alamo, FatCats, and Harkins have similar reopening plans:
- Masks are required unless eating or drinking
- Theater capacity will be reduced and "buffer" seats will be used to separate groups
- Groups will be encouraged to maintain a six-foot distance from each other
- Employees will undergo safety checks
- Showtimes will be staggered and have reserved seating
Harkins said its loyalty cups will be refilled using paper cups. Other drink and popcorn refills have been suspended indefinitely, a release said.