4 Steps Movie Theaters Should Take To Reopen

Like restaurants, the very concept of movie theaters (sitting in an enclosed space in close proximity to a large group of people for an extended period of time) was obviously not one that could remain viable in a time of pandemic without a significant amount of creative adjustment. Contactless payment is just one of those.

Now that the time has come to open in some areas, let’s take a look at some of the changes that movie theaters are going to have to make in order to reopen their doors to a wary public.


The first line of defense, of course, is cleanliness. We’re keeping track of state COVID-19 regulations, but you’ll definitely want to check the CDC for complete guidelines. Here are a few general guidelines to consider:

  • Focus on high-contact areas touched by both employees and guests.

  • Do not overlook seldom-touched surfaces.

  • Follow sanitizing material guidance to ensure it is at effective sanitizing strength.

  • Between seatings, clean and sanitize concession condiments, digital-ordering devices, self-service areas, tabletops, theater chairs, handrails, door handles, operator controls and levers, doorknobs, and other common-touch areas.

  • Avoid all food contact surfaces when using disinfectants.

  • Remove lemons and unwrapped straws and utensils from self-service drink stations.

  • Check restrooms regularly, and clean and sanitize them based on the frequency of use.

  • Make hand sanitizer readily available to customers. Consider touchless hand sanitizing solutions.

Social Distancing

Most localities will be establishing maximum capacities for the foreseeable future, so you’ll want to consult local and state guidelines; but beyond that, there are a number of social distancing adjustments that will need to be made pre-reopening. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Post signage at the entrance stating no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 can enter the restaurant.

  • Update floor plans for common concession and dining areas, redesigning seating arrangements to ensure at least six feet of separation between table setups.

  • Design a process so guests stay separated while waiting for seating to begin. Don’t allow them to congregate in waiting or bar areas. This process can include floor markings, outdoor distancing, waiting in cars, etc.

  • Limit party size at tables to no more than the established “maximums approved” as recommended by CDC or approved by local and state governments.

  • Install physical barriers where practical, especially in concession seating sections.

  • Limit contact between staff and guests.

  • If practical, physical barriers such as partitions or Plexiglas at registers are acceptable.

  • Determine ingress/egress to and from restrooms to establish paths that mitigate proximity for guests and staff.

  • Consider an exit from the facility separate from the entrance.

  • Consider a reserved seating model in order to keep parties adequately separated.

  • Use technology where possible to reduce person-to-person interaction, including mobile concession ordering, and contactless payment (more on this below).

Contactless ticketing

Encourage guests to purchase tickets online, which will allow for a more contactless theater experience.

A mobile-friendly website or mobile app can even allow guests to make their ticket purchase at the theatre via mobile device. Guests who purchase tickets online via website or app, or a third-party provider such as Fandango or Atom Tickets, would no longer be required to carry a printed ticket, but could simply show their ticket confirmation QR code to the usher at the ticket podium to scan.

For guests who prefer to make their payment at the theater, be sure to provide contactless payment methods via “tap-to-pay” credit or debit cards or via mobile device with Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple Wallet, and other similar solutions.

Contactless concessions

In addition to social distancing measures such as plexiglass shields, increased spacing between registers, and queue distancing via floor markings, consider instituting technology to facilitate contactless ordering and delivery for concessions, in order to avoid long lines in the concession area.

Solutions like those offered by OneDine offer easy initial setup and data-driven insights to make concession operations more efficient and the service more personalized as well as contact-free, all with no app required.


Guests can easily browse the menu, order, and pay right from their seat on their mobile device without having to wait in long lines or leave the theater and miss out on major plot points.


Guests can also experience safe, contactless payment with a variety of options, including SMS messages with a link to an online payment portal, a QR code or sensor that can be scanned/tapped at their seat in order to pay, and ordering online via a custom mobile browsing/ordering website with contactless payment options at checkout or upon delivery.


Another advantage of OneDine’s offerings is increased guest engagement through messaging, loyalty/rewards programs, customized offers, and surveys—all from their mobile devices.


Movie theaters are in a challenging spot, simply due to their very nature. However, with some creativity and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols, theaters can welcome back customers slowly but surely.