The Real Horror Movie Could Be Georgia Opening Up Its Theaters

The marquee of the Nuart movie theater in West L.A. on Saturday, April 11, 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (Elina Shatkin/LAist)

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In what public health experts say is a dangerous idea, the governor of Georgia wants to reopen the state's fitness centers, dine-in restaurants, bowling alleys, barber shops, nail salons and movie theaters as early as this week.

But chances are negligible that any of the state's multiplexes can actually get a new movie to show.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he wants to loosen social distancing restrictions that have slowed the spread of the coronavirus, and suggested movie theaters could start selling tickets as soon as next Monday. Republican leaders in South Carolina and Tennessee have echoed his comments, which epidemiologists say could lead to a resurgence of COVID-19.


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But even if a handful of movie houses unlock their doors, they likely won't get their hands on any new titles.

The National Association of Theater Owners said Wednesday that a few states that allow multiplexes to reopen will undermine the entire business. In a statement, the Association said:

"While some states and localities are beginning to authorize the opening of movie theaters under certain conditions, the movie theater industry is also a national one. Until the majority of markets in the U.S. are open, and major markets in particular, new wide release movies are unlikely to be available."

There are several problems with Georgia's plan.

Movie studios would have little economic incentive to release their movies (many of whose premieres have been postponed) if they couldn't play in major markets like New York and Los Angeles. Furthermore, if a national chain reopens a handful of screens in some states, would it still qualify for emergency loans and rent relief? And, most critically, what might happen to the already imperiled theater business if the coronavirus were transmitted to patrons during a screening?

Brandt Gully, the owner of The Springs Cinema & Taphouse near Atlanta, told Variety he had no intention of accepting Kemp's offer. "We are not going to open on Monday, and we don't have any plans as to when we would," Gully said, adding:

"It just doesn't feel socially responsible to me to go out there to try to grab a few bucks."

The major chains have not announced plans to reopen.

At the same time, companies that are filming in Georgia, which has one of the nation's most generous incentive programs, are not restarting production.

If some of Georgia's theaters do decide to start selling tickets (maybe there's a special pandemic popcorn package?), Washington Post columnist Dan Milbank has some suggestions for what old movies they might consider booking: "Contagion," "Outbreak" and "Carriers."