It’s looking like movie theaters will be given the opportunity to finally reopen here in Los Angeles County as early as next week.
Today, for the first time ever, LA County’s Covid-19 numbers dipped into the red tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Deadline’s Tom Tapp reports that if Los Angeles can maintain its Covid-19 numbers at that level for just more week, several sectors would be able to reopen — including cinemas at a 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.
Two more of California’s five biggest counties by population — Orange and San Bernardino — also had red tier numbers this week and, like L.A. could have theaters qualify reopen if they do so again next week. Those regions and L.A. account for 15 million of the state’s 40 million residents.
However, L.A. — and many other California regions, for that matter — could open even sooner than next Tuesday.
The California Department of Public Health revealed recently that once the state has administered 2 million vaccine doses in disadvantaged neighborhoods, it will make moving from the purple to red tier much easier. Instead of less than seven daily cases per 100,000 residents, counties only have to move below 10 cases per 100,000.
What’s more, the change will be retroactive, adding a week of credit for any county that missed out due to having a case rate between seven and 10 per 100,000 residents.
The tier list will be updated one day after California crosses 2 million shots administered within the bottom economic quartile. On Tuesday, that group was just short of 1.9 million. That could mean a big announcement during Governor Gavin Newsom’s State of the State address Tuesday evening.
In addition to Los Angeles, the eight additional counties ranging from seven to 10 daily cases per 100,000 in both of the past two list updates while also meeting test positivity requirements are Colusa, Contra Costa, Mendocino, Orange, San Benito, San Bernardino, Siskiyou and Sonoma. Amador was below 10 per 100,000 last week but jumped up again this week.
The news comes in the wake of New York City finally reopening movie theaters after more than 50 weeks of shutdown during the pandemic, with the marketplace grossing $1M over the March 5-7 frame. Like NYC, Los Angeles’ movie theaters have been shut down since mid-March of last year. There was a moment this past summer when it looked like they could reopen, before Newsom shut the county back down due to spiking Covid cases as the Independence Day holiday was approaching. While Los Angeles County never reopened movie theaters, there was a period when Orange and Ventura counties did in time for the late summer release of Warner Bros.’ Tenet. During the pandemic, drive-in theaters have largely been open in LA County.
However don’t wave any pompoms for Los Angeles’ movie theaters yet. The county itself has to decide if it’s OK to proceed here after it meets the state’s requirements.
That said, it won’t be shocking to see the LA exhibition market turning its lights on for the weekend of March 19-21. No. 1 exhibitor AMC has been very aggressive about reopening its cinemas in cities that have moved into lesser restrictive Covid lockdown tiers, but Regal remains closed, and it’s quite likely some other chains like Arclight will remain closed as well until there’s more feature product from the major studios available. For example, there were two wide studio releases over the weekend –Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and Lionsgate’s Chaos Walking– but there aren’t any this weekend, and won’t be until March 26 when Universal has their Bob Odenkirk action movie Nobody. After that, Easter weekend kicks in with Warner Bros/HBO Max/Legendary’s Godzilla vs. Kong on March 31 followed by Sony/Screen Gems’ The Unholy on Good Friday, April 2.
To qualify for the red tier, a county must have under seven daily cases per 100,000 residents. On Tuesday, LA county notched 6.9 daily cases per 100,000. That daily case rate is adjusted for each county based on dozens of factors. As a result, L.A.’s adjusted case rate is even better, at 5.2. It would need to dip below 4 per 100,000 to qualify for the even less restrictive orange tier.