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9 Tips for Safely Going Back to the Movie Theater

From the tantalizing smell of buttery movie theater popcorn to a sound system that puts store-bought soundbars to shame, nothing beats watching a movie in an actual movie theater.

Watching movies at home is great, but honestly, nothing compares to watching it in an actual movie theater. It’s not just about the movie––it’s about the entire experience!

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Filmmaker Christopher Nolan said it best in his March 2020 op-ed for The Washington Post: “Maybe, like me, you thought you were going to the movies for surround sound, or Goobers, or soda and popcorn, or movie stars. But we weren’t. We were there for each other.”

With movie theaters reopening across the country, there are plenty of movies out now worth seeing on the big screen.

Still, going back to the movies in 2021 is going to feel different than it did before the pandemic.

No need to worry. There are some simple steps you can take to feel safe about going back to the movies. You’ll feel even better once you learn about what movie theaters are doing to keep you safe too!

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We want you to enjoy your favorite movies in theaters without getting stressed about it, so we’ve simplified it with 9 easy-to-follow tips.

To enjoy the movies, you have to take care of yourself first.

The first and most important tip is to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Your health should be your biggest priority.

If you plan to go to the movies, you should make sure you feel completely healthy. Trust us, it will be much more enjoyable that way. If you have symptoms such as a fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste/smell, or any other symptoms related to COVID-19, stay at home. Take care of yourself first, because that’s what’s most important.

It’s also important to stay at home if you think you have come into contact with someone else showing any of these symptoms. You can wait a bit before heading back to the movies––the movie theaters will be here for you once you feel better.

Research your local movie theater’s safety policies.

Every state and local municipality has different guidelines for reopening movie theaters. That means it’s important to check to see what the movie theater near you is doing to keep both you and their employees safe and healthy.

We’ll run through some of the standard safety policies here to save you some time:

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CinemaSafe is a program that provides protocols and guidelines to support a safe return to movie theaters. All guidelines are backed and developed by leading epidemiologists. Over 3,100 movie theater locations are participating in this program which includes tips for both movie theater staff and patrons. Key guidelines include mask-wearing, social distancing, reduced auditorium capacity, air filtration, enhanced cleaning, frequent hand-sanitizing/washing for both employees and patrons, modified concessions, and enhanced health training for employees.

All AMC Theater locations are following these guidelines as part of their Safe & Clean™ program.  Just like we advise you to take care of yourself, AMC is doing temperature readings of all managers and crew members before they start their shift. Anyone who has a fever or other symptoms is required to self-quarantine until symptom-free for at least 72 hours.

All Cinemark movie theater locations, which include Century Theatres, CinéArts, Tinseltown, and Rave Cinemas, are also following Cinemasafe guidelines through “The Cinemark Standard.” Every single movie theater auditorium is thoroughly disinfected with pressurized sprayer equipment after each showing with complimentary seat-wipes if you wish to do an extra wipe-down before you sit. Cinemark developed an advanced 3-point air quality standard “designed to deliver an abundant supply of fresh outdoor air, maintain optimal air circulation, eliminate potential pollutants and, of course, provide our guests with a comfortable temperature and humidity level.” Get an in-depth look at all of Cinemark’s safety precautions here.

All Marcus Theatres and Movie Taverns, guests are all invited to be a Movie STAR as part of their approach to CinemaSafe guidelines:

Social Distancing

Thorough Cleaning and Sanitizing

App/Website Ordering Available for Low Contact

Respect for All Guests and Associates

You can hear from Marcus movie theater guests about their experience going back to the movies by watching these videos. All reopening details and reopening schedules by location can be found here.

Don’t see your local movie theater? Keep reading for more tips and resources.

Make a plan before you head to the movie theater.

We all love a spontaneous night out, but nowadays, it’s important to make a plan with your friends and family before heading out to a movie theater near you.

If you plan to catch a movie with friends or family outside of your household, check to make sure that they are feeling well and have been following safety precautions. If they aren’t feeling so hot, or if they think they have come in contact with someone who had symptoms, postpone your plans to hit the movies for a bit until they are feeling better. 

Your health is well worth the wait, even if your craving for movie theater popcorn is unbearable at this point! 

Buy your movie tickets ahead of time.

Another reason to make a plan is so that you can buy your tickets ahead of time. I mean, in 2021, does anyone want to wait in line just to buy movie tickets? 

CinemaSafe recommends that all participating movie theaters offer a way to buy movie tickets online to reduce the need to stand in line for tickets. Just like the increased popularity of cashless payment methods, alternatives to paper tickets are recommended to reduce any risk.

Movie theaters are required to have reduced auditorium capacities to comply with CDC, state, and municipal guidelines. That means that if you wait until the last minute, you may not get a ticket to the movie you want to see, which is why you’ll want to buy your movie tickets online.

Buying movie tickets ahead of time also ensures that you can reserve good seats in theaters (where seat reservations are possible) while still maintaining social distancing. Because no one wants to be stuck in a bad seat during a movie showing.

Maintain social distancing even before you get to your movie theater seats.

Unfortunately, we can’t all be like Bubble Boy, which means that we all have to do our part to maintain social distancing.

Many movie theaters helpfully provide stickers on the floor to encourage social distancing in lines. With reduced capacity in auditoriums, certain seats are blocked off to encourage social distancing while you’re watching the movie.

Still, you need to stay aware of your surroundings when walking around the movie theater.

Wear the right mask.

Although movie theaters have quality air filtration and are following social distancing practices, masks are still required anytime you’re in a movie theater. 

There is one exception. If your state allows it, similar to regulations while dining at indoor restaurants, you can take your mask off to enjoy your food and drink while seated during the movie.

Some movies out now are over two hours long, so it’s important to wear the right mask so that you feel comfortable throughout the movie.

So what’s considered the “right mask?”

A proper mask must be worn in a way that covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly around your face and chin. Theaters like AMC are not allowing neck gaiters, open-chin bandanas, or masks that have vents or exhalation valves, but they also have masks available to purchase for only $1. If you want to get in the Hollywood spirit, check out some of these independently made movie-inspired masks.

Wash and sanitize your hands while at the movie theater.

The cleanliness of movie theaters would make Dexter proud. 

Movie theaters complying with CinemaSafe protocol are carefully disinfecting each auditorium between movie screenings and wiping down high-touch surfaces with EPA-registered disinfectants. 

Many local movie theaters, including AMC and Cinemark, offer complimentary wipe stations throughout the theatre, including near concessions. They also added extra time between movies to allow more time for thorough disinfection. In addition to their partnership with CinemaSafe, they also partnered with Clorox to introduce advanced cleaning processes including electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, HEPA filter vacuums, and upgraded air filters.

In addition to wearing gloves and masks, movie theater employees are trained to frequently wash and sanitize their hands whenever possible, 

That means that you should frequently wash and sanitize your hands, too! No training is required. When washing your hands, work up a good lather for 20 seconds. Take advantage of the complimentary hand sanitizer stationed throughout the movie theater, too.

Bring a credit card or contactless payment for your movie theater popcorn and other goodies.

What is a movie theater experience without some snacks like movie theater popcorn? 

If you plan to hit the concession stand, bring a credit card or contactless payment like ApplePay. Most movie theaters are working to minimize cash transactions and encouraging the use of credit cards or contactless payments whenever possible. Some theaters may not even allow cash when purchasing concessions.

In addition to bringing cashless payments, be ready to see fewer food and drink options. Many movie theaters are limiting the concessions offered to reduce the time needed to wait in line.

Don’t worry, most theaters are still offering movie theater popcorn, soda, candy, nachos, and other treats you love. Just keep in mind that most are now only providing condiments like ketchup and buttery popcorn topping upon request, and the same goes for refills. Cinemark theaters have replaced self-served condiments with individually sealed packets. Don’t be afraid to ask a staff member for extras! 


Most of all, have fun. That’s what the movies are for.

The movie theater is designed to be a space where you can get immersed in a story and escape reality for a few hours (or more, we’re 100% game for a day-long movie marathon). 

All of these precautions that movie theaters are following are designed to make you feel at ease so you can enjoy new movie releases without any stress (unless being scared is your thing, you do you).

If you follow these tips and go to a movie theater with strict safety protocols, you have nothing to worry about. Just sit back (hopefully in a reclining seat), relax, and soak up the magic of the big screen.

Ready to head back to the movies? See what movie theaters are open near you.
You’ll want to buy your tickets ahead of time and ideally reserve your seat to ensure you get the best experience possible. Snag movie tickets for the hottest movies showing now in theaters, including the hottest new movie releases plus blockbuster hits yet to be released right here.

What movie theaters are open?

See all open AMC movie theaters near you.

See all open Cinemark Tinseltown movie theaters near you. 

See all open Paragon movie theaters near you. 

See all open Marcus movie theater near you. 

See all open Bow Tie movie theaters near you. 

See all open Regal movie theaters near you.

Want to know what’s good in Hollywood? Check back every week for new movie releases out now in theaters and on streaming platforms.