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Sunday, April 12, 2020

After The Virus: Cinemas' PLAN B

Cinemas in China have already reopened
It appears we still are a week or so away from a projected peak of infections and widespread testing of the U.S. populace. Entertainment businesses - movie theaters, concerts, sporting events, theme parks, etc. - are facing uncertain questions about what comes next? That question boils-down to how long will it take for people to feel safe enough to return to communal venues once reopened. This will take time and full proactivity on the part of these impacted businesses.

According to a recent poll by Performance Research, 49% of respondents said it will take "a few months" for them to return to group entertainment venues post-crisis. There is psychological tension at play for these businesses: the desire of people to share space after weeks of virtual isolation versus the trauma of sickness or death by an unseen and little understood pathogen.

                  Your return to business will be a 'staged process'


Call it embracing cautious optimism but I believe cinemas should prepare for when audiences will return - NOW. Marketing and communication is key. The way-back by the public to movie theaters could be as early as May in some localities. The studios have modified their release schedules and there is plenty of product for pent-up patrons to view.

Signs & posters are a good idea
Instituting safety measures at your theater is your start point. In waiting for universal testing, each cinema, as an added security step, could take the temperature of each patron as they enter the theater. Sanitation, is paramount, Prell dispensers throughout the cinema, full soap dispensers in very clean restrooms are no brainers. Performance Research found that 66% of respondents stated they were more concerned with the cleanliness and sanitation of public venues than with crowding and close contact (59%). Staggered seating will be required upon reopening and expected by partons.

Cinemas will have to create new standards and seals-of-approval that demonstrate steps are being taken to sanitize: seats, lobbies, restrooms, concession stands, and that screening of employees is actively taking place. People need to see and be able to tap into your efforts via phone, social media, website, local press, radio spots, local TV show news, word-of-mouth, running specials/discounts, partnering with other local merchants (especially any involved with commercial sanitation). Your return to business as usual will be a 'staged process'.

The pandemic, like all others, will fade into history but there will be lasting effects. Start NOW in implementing your Plan B for reopening. This will take effort and some investment, but the sooner you address your Plan B the sooner you'll be screening films again.

James Lavorato

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