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Movie theaters face an uncertain future amid the coronavirus pandemic. Shuttered for more than two months in many states, including Massachusetts, they must coax people out of the on-demand comfort of their homes and into auditoriums where a loud laugher in the next row may seem like a biohazard, rather than a mere annoyance.
But Mark Malinowski, vice president of global marketing at Norwood-based Showcase Cinemas, projects confidence.
"We will survive," he said, adding that his industry has withstood innovations such as television and home video — not to mention several wars.
Still, coronavirus-related closures are problematic enough that AMC Theatres, the world's largest cinema chain, said Wednesday that it has "substantial doubt" about its viability. As a public company, AMC is required to make regular disclosures about its financial health. Showcase is privately owned by National Amusements, which also owns ViacomCBS.
Malinowski said Showcase plans to reopen all of its 26 U.S. theaters and is moving forward with a plan to open a new one in Hanover in 2021 or 2022. The company has theaters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Ohio.
It is unclear when Massachusetts will allow indoor theaters to reopen. The state's coronavirus recovery plan, which has few fixed dates, includes cinemas in the third of four phases. The earliest possible date is June 29.
In the interim, Showcase has begun experimenting with drive-in film screenings. Whenever indoor showings resume, the company said it will implement enhanced cleaning regimens, require moviegoers to wear masks until seated and enforce physical distancing guidelines, among other measures.
In the long run, Malinowski said, Showcase's goal is to draw viewers by making the theater experience markedly better than watching on the couch.
"It's not the same to see an event-like film in a home environment versus in a huge theater with a power recliner, with Dolby Atmos sound, in our premium, large-format, XPlus, dual-laser projection," he said. "There's just nothing like seeing a movie presented in that way."
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