cinema halls and single seat social distancing — but how?

Photo by Caroline on Unsplash

It’s been almost 10 months since I watched a movie at the big screen. Pandemic effect. So much has changed. Every week, more and more things get directly released to streaming. Warner Bros is going to release all movies on their HBO MAX thing for 2021. (see: WB Effect — I wont be missing the cinema halls anymore).

Theaters were allowed to reopen in India a few months ago. Local theaters here in my small town have also opened up. I can see posters of Wonder Woman 1984 everywhere, and regional languages and local ads are running.

I already read online that in a lot of countries, the standard policy is to leave the middle seat open. I wanted to see how that would be done in India, and now, thanks to online booking, I know how it is being implemented.

Single Seat Gap

screenshot from a local cinema hall on bookmyshow.com

There is the header image at the top of this post, and there is the seating arrangement of a movie theater in Hyderabad. As a retired, avid movie theater goer, this does not inspire much confidence.

Everywhere I see, I am advised to maintain 6 feet of gap. Each seat roughly the length of a shoulder. The seats, similar to airline seats, keep getting smaller and smaller every year. A single seat is 2 feet or less. Air conditioning at 30 degree Celsius is not the most comfortable temperature to sit and watch movies. Also, for some reason, none of the theaters are talking about increased air flow from outside to inside, and inside to outside.

Moot Point Perhaps

Now that I am working again, I am back to my old habits of buying food from the local restaurant. Due to parenting new born twins, neither me nor the wife are in a position to cook dinner. I switch and order from multiple restaurants every night, in person. A lot of people have stopped wearing masks.

Then again, it is a restaurant. So, people have to remove their masks to eat. Just like the cinema halls, restaurants also have to pack as much seats as they can, to increase profits. I remember this one time, going to a high end restaurant. It had all these waterfalls, well dressed attractive looking waitresses, and ambience.

Yet, there was a six-seater dining table right next to the entrance to the restroom. This would shatter any ‘dining’ ambience they are trying to give. Still, profit, right?

Based on these regular visits to many restaurants, I assume, in other places too, folks are following the mask rule less rigorously. I wear every time, but I have simply come to accept that, many may not do it. I think, people are just learning to live with the pandemic. Life has to go on for everybody, including the people who are employed in the movie showing business.

Final Note

the good times. Photo by Felipe Bustillo on Unsplash

I have written before about how, theaters have been pushing me away with their ads and high price movie food. After 8 years of non-stop movie watching (I used to watch 4 to 6 movies every month at the multiplex, sometimes, 2 to 3 movies in a single weekend), I thought, it would be impossible to live without cinema halls.

Now, thanks to the pandemic, I have left them and living just fine after no movies for 10 months. My movie dollars have been redirected to Xbox purchases.

If there was an actual 6 feet gap, and improved air conditioning, I would consider going back. If I have to pay for that privilege, I could do that too. It could become a luxury premium experience, that people enjoy once in a while. Like a vacation may be.

Alternatively, I will probably just wait for a couple of years until the vaccination has rolled out nationally.

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