Doctors on returning to movie theatres: ‘the last thing I’d do right now’

'There really is no zero-risk scenario during this COVID pandemic'

With movie theatres reopening their doors in Toronto and in other cities across North America, doctors and epidemiologists are warning against moviegoers returning to the cinema amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The A.V. Club spoke with Dr. Anne W. Rimoin, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center For Global And Immigrant Health at the University Of California, Los Angeles, and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed about the risks of attending a theatre. Studios are moving ahead with the release of several films, including Russell Crowe’s latest vehicle Unhinged, New Mutants, and Dev Patel’s The Personal History Of David Copperfield all slated to hit the big screen over the next couple of weeks.

“I mean, the thing people need to realize is that there really is no zero-risk scenario during this COVID pandemic,” Dr. Anne W. Rimoin told The A.V. Club. “We’re advising people to not interact with others beyond their immediate family or home bubble unless absolutely necessary, to limit gatherings of more than 10 people in any given space, and to avoid indoor areas. And you should definitely not be in an indoor area where you’d be taking your mask off, not even for eating. Movie theaters have all of that.”

Cinplex began reopening theatres in Ontario in July with enhanced safety and cleaning measures and physical distancing both inside and outside auditoriums. Still, according to some experts it’s not enough to alleviate risk of exposure.

“…going to see a movie in an indoor movie theater, it’s just about the last thing I would do right now,” said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. “From what we understand, the virus is transmitted through through aerosolized droplets that come out of our mouths, oftentimes when we talk or when we laugh or when we sing. And so, being in a room for two hours with a bunch of folks who are laughing at a movie, and where air is not being circulated in an efficient way, and where you don’t know who has been in there before you, that’s really hazardous exposure. I just don’t think it’s worth it.”

Will you be returning to theatres during the pandemic?