Theaters preparing for new normal amid pandemic

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Movie theaters would be allowed to open with strict social distancing protocols in Phase One of President Donald Trump's plan for getting the country back up and running.

But many theaters tell 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the experience will look different for movie-goers.

“Official opening plans are still being determined, which includes seating arrangements,” said Melissa Boudreau, chief marketing officer at Northwoods Entertainment, a managing partner for Emagine Theatres.

Emagine has theatres across the Midwest, including nine locations in Minnesota.

"If we could be fully operational by July, that's our hope," Boudreau said. "We've also been discussing, after every film, what's our cleaning protocol? Do we have Purell stations everywhere for the guests to use? How are we going to run our soda machines because they're shared by multiple people's hands?"

Boudreau said there are also questions about what movies will play once they reopen, since so many Hollywood blockbusters are being delayed, including Mulan and Wonder Woman 1984.

Susan Smoluchowski, executive director of the MSP Film Society, said this may pave the way for more independent films on the big screen.

"Some of the smaller distributors and smaller studios will maybe have more of an opportunity to get their films out in front of the public than they have done in the past in this country," Smoluchowski said.

Smoluchowski is also executive director of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, which was supposed to be running this week. She said, because theaters are currently closed, they plan to launch a virtual festival in early May.

Many theaters, like Emagine, are currently offering virtual screenings and curbside popcorn pickup.

"In all the Minnesota locations, we are doing popcorn pickup every weekend. If you buy a $25 gift card, you can get a giant bag of family size popcorn," Boudreau said, "and that actually helps us bring our employees back."