Don’t expect movie theaters to open in Santa Clara County any time soon

October 17, 2020

San Jose Mercury News

Don’t expect movie theaters to open in Santa Clara County any time soon

COVID-19 rules on indoor gatherings mean no popcorn and soda

When Santa Clara County moved into the state’s Orange Tier on Tuesday, entertainment-starved movie fans may have been elated to hear that indoor movie theaters were among the businesses being allowed to open at a limited 25% capacity.

But no indoor cinema in the county announced any plans to open its doors this week, and it turns out there’s a really good reason why.

I talked to Dan Orloff of Pruneyard Cinemas in Campbell, which provides an in-theater dining experience, who told me that while the Orange Tier status allows movie theaters to open, Santa Clara County’s Mandatory Directive for Gatherings — based on state COVID-19 guidelines — says indoor gatherings, specifically including movie theaters, can’t serve food or drinks.

“We’re limited to 25% seating, studios aren’t releasing any blockbuster movies right now, and we can’t have food or drink in the theaters,” Orloff said. “That’s our whole business.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed also banned concessions at that city’s movie theaters, prompting the National Association of Theatre Owners of California/Nevada to announce that its membership had unanimously agreed to remain closed in the City by the Bay. But theaters in several other counties in California have reopened with full concessions.

You can certainly debate how safe it is to spend 2 hours at an indoor movie theater during a pandemic, but it would be nice to have everyone on the same page.