The Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain detailed some of its plans on Wednesday for the beginning of a nationwide opening to start in July, expounding upon the detailed steps it will be employing to help keep guests safe from the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chain known for its depth of commitment to customer experience will go above and beyond the plans of nationwide competitors such as AMC, which announced its plans last week and then immediately modified them to require facemasks on customers after public outcry.
Alamo Drafthouse will go several steps further on multiple fronts, announcing that it will not only be requiring facemasks (and providing them for free), but will also be doing mandatory temperature checks of customers in many locations. There are currently 41 Alamo Drafthouse cinemas nationwide, in 10 states.
“We want you to feel safe,” said founder and executive chairman Tim League in a statement. “Our driving principle has been to make the Alamo Drafthouse experience one of the safest possible indoor activities—’safer than a supermarket’—and far exceed the expectations you already have for supermarkets, gyms, and restaurants. The steps outlined below will dramatically increase physical distancing, introduce enhanced and exhaustive new cleaning procedures, and temporarily change our service model. To do this, we’re revising and reimagining how we do things, and how you experience Alamo Drafthouse. That’s no small task—it means flexing a model we’ve refined for over 20 years—and we know we’ll need to stay nimble as we learn new and better methods, continuously gather feedback from our guests, and as the battle against COVID-19 continues.”
Here’s a full rundown of the measures Alamo Drafthouse is taking:
— “One or two” locations described as “learning labs” will open first in early July, where the company will test out its new procedures, with other Drafthouse openings to follow—”a few at first, and the rest when we believe we’re ready and when we believe that the risk in that area has declined.”
— Customer temperatures will be taken at many locations. Customers with temperatures greater than 100.4 degrees or higher will be barred from entry. Likewise, all employees will have their temperatures taken each day as well.
— Guests who display some sign of illness during film screenings, such as repeated coughing, will be approached by theater staff and possibly asked to leave. These guests will be fully refunded for their tickets and food for the inconvenience. Unlike the likes of AMC, expect Drafthouse to follow through on such statements—this is a chain well known for its willingness to kick out customers who are texting, using their phones or being disruptive. And they’ll be extra incentivized to do so in the midst of a pandemic.
— Ticketing for showtimes will all be handled online, “with at least two buffer seats providing at least six feet of physical distancing between groups.”
— Physical interactions between guests and staff will be minimized by doing advance food ordering and gratuity, with no payment processed at the theater itself.
— New sanitation measures abound: According to the chain, “each auditorium—and specifically chairs and tables—will be sanitized between screenings with an electrostatic fogger and disinfectant. We’ll also have hand sanitizing wipes at your table for you to use.”
In our eyes, this series of statements is more or less the most one can expect from a company trying to operate during an inherently risky time to be out in public—if there’s something else that Alamo Drafthouse should be doing to minimize risk (other than staying closed entirely) we can’t think of it. From providing free masks (also unlike AMC), to actually enforcing its policies, this feels like theoretically the safest way to go to a movie theater during the time of coronavirus. There will no doubt be many potential customers—ourselves included—who will be wary of going to a theater even with all of these precautions, but you have to at least appreciate the effort, and the company’s measured plan toward rolling out its new policies.