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Saturday, April 25, 2020

Exhibs & Production Post Virus: Observations

Masks, plexiglass, gloves, Purell, sanitation extraordinaire - reopening a cinema: what is enough and when does it end, if ever.
Depiction of reopened cinema

Government leaders cannot continue to order businesses (and the populace) to make extreme personal and financial sacrifices in the name of something as nebulus and now known to be as limited as the Wuhan virus - the fatality rate now known to be less than 1% of those infected.

Movie theaters are perhaps the ultimate venue for personal interaction, yet they will open (in some case next week) and when they do what will be the best way to operate for both patrons and staff.

Seating capacity: will probably be limited to 50% so exhibs should plan on running more shows throughout the day - screening movies from 9am thru the wee hours. Children are off of school for the remainder of the school year in most jurisdictions making for a pool of everyday moviegoers. Additionally, most adults' bio-clocks have gone haywire so late night movie attendance could be just the out-of-home activity they crave.

Staggered seating will be expected by moviegoers as will sanitation of the seats. Have staff spray disinfect seats between shows. It is imperative to demonstrate to patrons that everyone of the cinema's staff is on-board with their safety and security.

Masks: iffy. How can people wear masks and eat concession? Perhaps have masks available but not required. Many patrons may bring their own masks.

Gloves: at the discretion of the patrons. Have available if they want them.

Plexiglass screens: optional, if not already existing, for the box office and concession stand.

Be realistic, most people will be very skittish about attending large crowd gatherings - at least initially. It will be the job of each exhibitor to lessen that fear. I know polls have shown that people will take their time in returning to public entertainment venues but people don't always do as they say particularly if they know actions are being taken to minimize their risk.  Also, there are compelling reasons to attend a movie or other social event, for one people are desperate to get OUT of their voluntary (or otherwise) house arrest.

Note: If you think the rules for cinemas are stringent the 'new normals' for movie production are truly draconian. What is it going to be like in the coming months after the virus imposed shutdowns at film production facilities across the globe? What is developing are drastic rules to minimize the Spread.

Here's a few on the agenda:
- a two-week quarantine for the entire cast and crew before production begins.
- daily testing of all via temperature check
- breaking the production into work Pods
     - Pod 1 - the on-set cast and crew (director, VFX folks, cinematographer, etc.)
     - Pod 2 - base-camp staff (makeup, hair, catering, etc.)
     - Pod 3 - set design, props, etc.
      Each Pod would have a quarantine supervisor who would enforce the protocols.
- locations and sets would be dressed (cleansed) and sealed for three days, including costumes.
   props, etc.

Whether or not you are going to get an A-lister to self-quarantine for two-weeks is iffy. But, it is certain that production changes would be profound and how long they would have to be imposed is not know.  The other, huge issue is financing of a production if that project cannot get insurance. The big studios could self-insure but many smaller projects may not be able to.

There are going to be mega-changes in the day-to-day operation of making a feature film and for the exhibition of that content.

My thoughts,
Jim Lavorato

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