Big movie theater chains relax masking rules, Triangle theaters hold off

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Memorial Day weekend 2021 felt like big shift from the 2020 experience. North Carolina’s relaxed COVID-19 rules meant more options were available to observe the holiday.

That included a day at the movies. When many businesses are closed because of the holiday, a trip to the movies is an option for the day.

Major cinemas announced they would follow with the state and relax masking restrictions for vaccinated people. Their staffers will remain masked regardless of their vaccination status.

However, policing who is vaccinated and who is not is tricky. For the most part, businesses have used the honor system.

The Historic Rialto Theater in Raleigh has chosen to keep masking rules in place for everyone regardless of whether they are vaccinated. The governor’s order to lift restrictions allowed businesses to keep precautions in place if they chose to.

“People rebel at the idea of having to wear seatbelts and if you require a COVID passport, you can only imagine the riot that would ensue,”said Bill Peebles, owner of the Historic Rialto Theater.

Policing masking for two groups just too complicated. If people are dishonest about their vaccination, it could put others at risk, Peebles said.

“The simple thing to do is just require everyone to wear a mask,” Peebles said.

It’s one of the strategies the Raleigh theater has in place to keep people safe. Every other row is still blocked in the auditorium. Staffers continue to refill popcorn in new containers and they are asking people to check-in via a QR code for potential contact tracing.

The entire Rialto staff has been vaccinated.

“Yes, it’s safe to come to the Rialto. The other answer I’ll give is all the documentation and research I have available shows there have been no infections due to cinemas,” Peebles said.

CBS 17 checked with the CDC. They place theaters at high risk for unvaccinated people but no outbreaks are linked to them. Peebles saying its thanks to continued caution from theater owners.

Local movie theater policies

Rialto Theater: Staff masked, all patrons masked regardless of vaccination

Alamo Drafthouse: Staff masked, all patrons masked regardless of vaccination

Marquee Wakefield 12: Masking recommended in common areas but not required for vaccinated patrons

AMC: Staff masked, no masks for vaccinated patrons, masking required for unvaccinated patrons

Regal: Staff masked, no masks for vaccinated patrons, masking required for unvaccinated patrons

Cinemark: Staff masked, no masks for vaccinated patrons, masking required for unvaccinated patrons

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