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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Slices of Light

Movie theaters can finally reopen in L.A.—here’s what you can expect

What you should know before you buy a ticket.

By
Michael Juliano
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It’s been almost an entire year since we’ve been able to watch a film from somewhere other than our couch or a drive-in. But now that Los Angeles County has moved into the red tier of the state’s reopening framework, movie theaters are allowed to reopen.

But the moviegoing experience will look pretty different now compared to when we were last in theaters to see—checks early 2020 release schedule—um, Sonic the Hedgehog. Of course, maybe the biggest question is which cinemas are actually open again. Cinemark’s theaters have resumed screenings, and AMC has welcome moviegoers back to its Century City 15 and Burbank 16 locations; the rest of AMC’s theaters should resume screenings on March 19. Otherwise, we’re likely still a number of weeks away from L.A.’s smaller chains and single-screen cinemas opening their doors again. When they do, we’ll update our feature on L.A.’s best movie theaters with their current status.

From capacity limits to rules on seating and concessions, here’s what you should know before you buy a ticket.

Capacity: Theaters are limited to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Just as a reference point, the Chinese Theatre holds nearly 1,000 people while a smaller single-screen space like the New Beverly holds a little over 200, so expect pretty cavernous movie palaces or sparse small auditoriums (honestly, not an uncommon sight if you ever caught a weekday screening in the Before Time).

Seating: Assigned seating or advanced reservations are required, specifically since all households will need to be seated at least six feet away from other households (you can still sit right next to people you live with, though). Also, the guidelines discourage guests from loitering about the lobby and are instead asked to wait to come inside until right before their reservation time.

Face coverings: Both guests and workers are required to wear face coverings, which moviegoers can only remove when eating or drinking.

Concessions: Speaking of food, theaters are highly encouraged to use online ordering and pickup, if possible. If you do find yourself lining up at the concession stand, you’ll need to keep six feet from others in line and don’t be surprised if there’s a preference for credit or contactless payment instead of cash. In addition, eating is only allowed at your seat or in designated areas, so no munching on popcorn while you walk to the auditorium.

This actually isn’t the first opportunity that L.A. has had to reopen theaters; in June 2020, the county had approval from the state to reopen gyms, museums and movie theaters but opted to keep the latter closed. That ultimately didn’t matter: A couple of weeks later the state paused any new reopening plans, and by the beginning of July all of those sectors were shut again. In September and October, neighboring counties like Orange and Ventura moved into the red tier and were able to reopen theaters, but those too were rolled back by Thanksgiving.

Not quite ready to return to a cinema yet? Check out L.A.’s best drive-in movie theaters as well as some pop-up drive-ins and outdoor screenings.

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