It’s time for a movie date, as local theaters reopen this week

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When was the last time you had movie theater popcorn? For many Kern County residents, it’s been over six months. But that could change now that Kern County is seeing looser coronavirus restrictions since graduating to the red tier under the state’s system of pandemic guidelines. That’s good news for movie buffs.

Michelle Corson: “They can operate at a 25 percent occupancy or 100 people, whichever is fewer,” said Michelle Corson, the Public Information Officer for the Kern County Department of Public Health.

The health department issued detailed guidelines that cover every aspect of movie-going, ranging from snack regulations to guidelines related to entrances. Maya Cinemas, for instance, will only allow single-serve cups to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The theater will also arrange seating to allow six feet of space between groups, to comply with state guidelines.

“Each sides of you two seats we blocked off,” said Josh Kortkamp, the General Manager of Maya Cinemas Bakersfield. “That sets us up for 25% capacity.”

Josh Kortkamp: “There will be single use cups only. And we’ll have someone manning the drink stations, there’s no self serve anymore.”

Some cinemas are also hiring full-time crews dedicated to meeting the new standards. That means staff members will be dedicated to a strict cleaning routine mandated by the state, including plexiglass barriers in between customers and workers at concession stands.

“They’ll be fogging cinemas between every show,” said Kortkamp. “Cleaning all contact points every 30 minutes.”

The state wants consumers to take action as well. Masks and social distancing are required under the new rules, and Kern public health issued additional safety mandates. Officials hope the only thing you’ll catch at a theater is your favorite movie, not COVID-19.

“You’re going to be temperature checked,” said Corson. “As you go in, the guideline does state for the movie theaters that not only the employees should be temperature checked on a regular basis but it is suggested in the guidance that the patrons are also temperature checked.”

Many local theaters plan to open as soon as Friday, so movie dates are no longer a relic of the past.

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