Cinemark pushes ahead with phased reopening of movie theaters amid worsening COVID-19 pandemic

Cinemark announced on Tuesday it will start a phased reopening for its theaters in the U.S. beginning on July 24, even as the novel coronavirus pandemic worsens in many states across the country, forcing government officials to rethink hasty reopening plans.

The world’s largest movie theater chain will be showcasing Hollywood classic films to mark the reopening, according a Cinemark news release. Elevated cleaning and safety standards will be put in place in what Cinemark says is a bid to make moviegoers feel at ease amid the ongoing pandemic that had sickened more than 2.6 million people and killed more than 127,000 in the U.S. as of July 1.

The company is encouraging customers to check Cinemark’s website for the most updated information on its safety protocols.

“Cinemark is pleased with the moviegoer response and key learnings from our initial five-theatre test-and-learn phase in the Dallas area, and we look forward to welcoming movie fans back into our auditoriums across the country to enjoy this year’s newest films,” Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said of the planned reopening.

“Our multi-phased reopening plan was thoughtfully designed with multiple contingencies in place that enable us to efficiently adapt to today’s ever-changing environment. We continue to pay close attention to status of the virus, local mandates and availability of new content while prioritizing the health and safety of our guests, employees and communities.”

To ensure cleanliness, all theaters will be assigned a designated “Chief Clean and Safety Monitor,” the news release said.

The news of Cinemark’s phased reopening came just a day after AMC announced the company will be pushing back their intended reopening by two weeks as new COVID-19 cases spike across the U.S.

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Hollywood's hopes for salvaging its summer season were effectively ended after the releases of both Christopher Nolan's “Tenet” and the Walt Disney Co.'s live-action reboot of “Mulan” were delayed.

With COVID-19 cases surging in parts of the U.S., Disney followed Warner Bros. in pushing back “Mulan" a second time. The film, initially planned to open in March, was slated for July 24, but will now be released in late August. “While the pandemic has changed our release plans for ‘Mulan’ and we will continue to be flexible as conditions require, it has not changed our belief in the power of this film and its message of hope and perseverance,” said Disney co-chairmen Alan Horn and Alan Bergman in a joint statement.

Warner Bros. also postponed “Tenet,” starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, from July 31 to Aug. 12. The studio stressed the need for flexibility.

“We are choosing to open the movie mid-week to allow audiences to discover the film in their own time, and we plan to play longer, over an extended play period far beyond the norm, to develop a very different yet successful release strategy,” a Warner Bros. spokesperson said in a statement.

Movie theater chains had planned the widespread reopening of cinemas partially around the return of new releases like “Tenet” and Disney’s “Mulan.” AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark — the three largest circuits in North America — had all set a timetable for nationwide reopening in early to mid-July with the aim of first playing catalog movies (including Nolan's own “Inception”) and a smattering of smaller films as a lead-in to summer tentpoles.

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But with COVID-19 cases surging in Texas, Arizona, Florida and elsewhere, some of those plans became uncertain, though Cinemark appears intent on moving forward.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.