As movie theaters reopen across the United States and the world, there are lingering questions about what kinds of measures those theaters will be taking to keep staff and moviegoers safe in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
These concerns were illustrated last week, when AMC CEO Adam Aron said in an interview that the theater chain would not be requiring that patrons wear masks except in locations where they’re legally required to do so — because the company “did not want to be drawn into a political controversy.” Naturally, those comments prompted a controversy of their own, leading AMC to reverse its decision.
So it makes sense for NBCUniversal-owned movie ticketing app Fandango to highlight the different safety measures that theaters are taking.
It’s useful from an informational perspective, so that moviegoers understand and prepare for the experience in theaters, and perhaps choose theaters based on how serious they seem about safety. But it’s also a savvy marketing move, as those theaters will need to convince moviegoers that it’s safe to return.
The new features include what Fandango is pitching as a “one-stop shop” to view the safety measures announced by more than 100 theater chains, with information about auditorium occupancy, social distance seating, mask/protective equipment policies, enhanced cleaning measures and special concession arrangements. There will also be instructional videos, social distance seating maps and a way to search for reopened theaters by location.
Since movie theaters have been closed for the past few months, Fandango also says it will be extending expired rewards from its Fandango VIP+ loyalty programs for another 60 days.
“We are working closely with our friends in exhibition to help get their ticketing back online and film fans back in seats with peace of mind,” said Melissa Heller, Fandango’s vice president of domestic ticketing, in a statement. “In addition to our new product features, Fandango’s mobile ticketing will be an added benefit, helping moviegoers and cinema employees reduce the number of contact points at the box office and throughout the theater.”
Update: In response to my question about whether moviegoers should feel safe going back to theaters, the company sent me the following statement from Fandango managing editor Erik Davis:
Let’s face it, there’s nothing like watching a movie on the big screen, and some movies like ‘Tenet’ and ‘Mulan’ beg to be seen on the biggest screen available, so there’s definitely a demand. Moviegoing decisions are personal: which movie, which format, which theater are you going to see it in. And now with health & safety protocols different for each state, county or theater chain, it’s useful to know what the theaters are offering before you go. Fandango is gathering all the info in one place to help fans return to the movies with peace of mind, and at the right time that is best for them.