The New Mutants is finally getting ready for its debut. It’s the biggest movie to open in the United States since the novel coronavirus pandemic started, and will be followed by an even bigger film, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The studios and theaters might swear things will be okay, but all you have to do is look around to know now is just not the time for any of this.
Sometimes, it feels like The New Mutants is cursed. The somber take on the X-Men franchise filmed in 2017 and was set to come out in 2018, but the failure of X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Disney’s purchase of (formerly) 20th Century Fox put it on a seemingly permanent back burner. Three years later, it’s actually coming out on August 28. Surprisingly, Disney chose to release it in theaters—unlike Artemis Fowl and the live-action Mulan, which were moved to Disney+. That makes New Mutants the first major theatrical release since the novel coronavirus pandemic started in March.
Even though it’s been six months, covid-19 is still out of control. The United States is sitting at over 5.6 million cases and 175,000 deaths, with another single day of over 1,000 deaths on Sunday. Things have improved since the mid-July high of over 75,000 daily cases, but they’re still nowhere near what they need to be—especially as we approach the fall flu season. In addition, Hong Kong researchers recently reported the first known covid-19 reinfection.
Tenet is set to follow The New Mutants a week later, on September 3. Warner Bros. has made it clear that the movie would not go straight to a streaming service—or even let audiences have the option of watching it at home via VOD—insisting that it’s meant to be a theatrical experience. Variety additionally reports, “The studio issued strict guidelines to drive-in operators across the country, mandating that Tenet can only play in outdoor venues if indoor theaters in that particular market are open.” Now, The New Mutants is following a similar narrative. Although director Josh Boone previously told io9 he’d be happy regardless of where the movie launched, the director recently argued to Heroic Hollywood that people should be going to movie theaters, despite the pandemic.
“I do think people should be going to the movies. If they can go to a house party with 700 people without masks on, they can put on a mask and go to a movie and maybe get their rocks off in a more productive way. But I think it brings people together, even if they’re socially distanced. And I think that, as long as they’re following the rules they’re supposed to be following, it’s safer than an airplane or a restaurant,” Boone said.
There’s no evidence to support that being in a movie theater is safer than being on an airplane or in a restaurant because indoor spaces as a whole aren’t safe. One advantage is the spacing. Theaters like AMC and Alamo Drafthouse are operating at reduced capacity, usually ranging from 25-50% depending on the state rules, blocking off surrounding seats to ensure people are staying several feet apart. But medical experts are skeptical: One doctor recently told Forbes that if she came into contact with anyone who’d been to the movies, she’d self-quarantine for 14 days.
Masks are also required at movie theaters, but there’s an exception for when people are eating or drinking (a huge and unpredictable variable, especially for folks normally opposed to wearing masks). Covid-19 can spread easily in indoor air-conditioned spaces, even if there are still debates over whether it’s considered airborne, which means there’s a risk of infection every time someone lowers their mask to take a sip.
And the movie theaters know this: Alamo Drafthouse is now requiring attendees to agree to this health and safety waiver before getting their tickets.
“As you know, COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness or even death. There is an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 in any public place where people are present. Although we have put in place preventative measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at our cinemas, we cannot guarantee that you or your child(ren) will not be exposed to or contract COVID-19 while visiting an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. You must follow all posted instructions while visiting an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema,” it reads. “By visiting an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19, accept full responsibility for any injury to yourself or your child(ren), and release the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema from all claims or liabilities of any kind arising out of or related thereto. You understand and agree that this release includes any claims based on the actions, omissions, or negligence of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, its owners, affiliates, subsidiaries, employees, contractors, agents, and representatives.”
AMC has a similar disclaimer on its site.
Look, I get it. There’s something special about going to a movie theater, and all we want is to feel something good right now. We yearn to recreate that sense of normalcy any way we can. But there are ways to do so other than risking your health or the health of those around you. If you have access to a drive-in theater with the movies you want to see, go to a drive-in theater. If someone is hosting an outdoor screening, go to an outdoor screening (keeping masks and social distancing in mind). Or just wait until the movie comes out on streaming services. Because the sad truth is: There is no such thing as normalcy right now.
Eventually, we will return to movie theaters, indoor restaurants, and theme parks. We will have fun again. But now is not the time to pretend that things are OK, because trying to jump ahead could mean you or someone you care about may get this deadly disease. And it’s just not worth it.
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