Many have asked me the obvious Boaz question: Not going to the movies since March has put me into withdrawal, but am I going back to the theaters when they re-open in July?
I’ve been hoping the answer could safely be yes. I waited for the safety protocols. Then I contacted my extremely trusted epidemiological contact, and former interview subject Lakshmy Menon, MPH for guidance. Sadly, the answer is not what I was hoping for, and it appears that unless other measures are taken, I’m choosing not to go into any indoor theater.
The reasons are less about what you expect, and are specific to it being indoors. Generally speaking, six feet of distance and masking is more than enough. That recommendation along with hand-washing has not changed in months. (In fact outdoors if there’s six feet of distance between you and those outside your household, it’s quite safe even without the mask, but you better damn well have it ready to put on before you enter anyone else’s six feet of space.) The theaters are supposedly ensuring that distance by blocking the seats. And at least in California the state law mandates the masking (though it in no way ensures proper enforcement). But the issue unique to being indoors is that the air conditioning picks up those droplets and moves them around far differently than the outdoors. Yes they remains droplets which ultimately hit the ground, but outdoors those droplets will simply hit the ground within 6 feet and thus you should be fine beyond those 6 feet – assuming good hand-washing when you touch things. But inside any room with A/C you simply cannot trust the six foot rule. Those droplets can blow and circulate around.
This is why I choose to avoid any indoor space if it can be avoided, whether that be a place of worship, a grocery store, a casino, or any indoor setting with air conditioning. If it cannot be avoided then so be it, but other than within my own household, I will certainly wear a mask indoors at all times, even if I am not within six feet of anyone.
The good news is that there may end up being some theaters that invest in special air filtration that make it far more safe. But until those or other measures that change the recommendations occur, movie-obsessed Boaz and his wife will be limiting their movie watching to outdoor drive-ins, and their own living room.
Boaz Hepner grew up in LA in Pico/Robertson and now lives here with his wife and baby girl. Thus, the neighborhood is very important to him. He helped clean up the area by adding the dozens of trash cans that can still be seen from Roxbury to La Cienega. When he is not working as Registered Nurse in Santa Monica, he can be found with his wife and daughter enjoying his passions: his multitude of friends, movies, poker and traveling.