LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Movie theaters in Los Angeles County, the biggest movie-going market in the United States, could be allowed to open as early as Monday for the first time in a year, county officials said in new guidelines released on Thursday.
The news is expected to boost to the struggling theater business. Indoor cinemas in the county, the home of Hollywood, have been shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Theaters will be limited to 25% capacity in each auditorium as part of ongoing safeguards to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department said. Groups must be seated six feet apart in all directions.
The exact timing of the reopenings depends on when the county qualifies for the “red tier” in the state’s coronavirus rankings. County officials said they expect to reach that mark between Monday and Wednesday.
Movie theaters in New York City, the second-largest movie-going region in the United States, opened their doors at 25% capacity on March 5.
Theater operators including AMC Entertainment Cineworld Plc and Cinemark Holdings Inc were badly hurt by the extended closures and hope they will have blockbusters movies to show this summer, typically their most lucrative season. Hollywood studios postponed major releases in 2020 or sent their films to streaming services.
The first big-budget action movie on the 2021 Hollywood schedule is Walt Disney Co’s “Black Widow,” which is currently set for May 7. Other films on the summer schedule include “Fast & Furious” sequel “F9” and “Top Gun: Maverick” starring Tom Cruise.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Lewis & Shri Navaratnam)