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COVID Reopening: Movie Theaters Open Doors In Red-Tier San Mateo, Marin Counties

REDWOOD CITY (KPIX 5) – After San Mateo and Marin counties re-entered the state's COVID-19 Red Tier this week, indoor dining and movie night have made a comeback, with the reopening of some theaters on Friday.

The Cinemark Movie theater chain opened megaplexes in Redwood City, San Bruno and San Rafael that had been shuttered since mid-November. Under the state's Red Tier, movie theaters and indoor dining capacity are allowed at up to 25% capacity.

Redwood City Century Theaters Reopening
Century Theater in Redwood City on its reopening on February 26, 2021. (CBS)

"I'm comfortable going back into the movie theaters. I think that it's great that it's reopening. Of course, I'd want adequate social distancing and masks," says Raghu Sengupta.

Sengupta hastened to add that he understood the unease or anxiety some felt attending a movie with strangers before the pandemic was fully over. He said his girlfriend would likely wait to get vaccinated before returning to movie theaters in person.

At Cinemark's Century Theater in Redwood City, every other row of seats inside the theater is blocked off with yellow caution tape to ensure social distancing. A spokesperson for the movie chain said they are other safeguards built into the ticket buying process.

"With our seat buffering technology, you'll be able to see right away not only where your seats in the auditorium, but where the seats are blocked off around you. So, the minute that you click whichever seats you'd like to have in our auditorium, you'll see that we'll automatically block the seats on your left and your right," said Caitlin Piper, a Cinemark spokesperson.

Piper said movie theater staff will conduct multiple, frequent cleaning of high-contact surfaces, such as hand rails.

Despite the precautions, not everyone feels safe returning to indoor activities just yet.

"I know a lot of people are itching to get back out there and just live a regular life. But personally I think I'll play it safe and just stay away," says Marcos Ronquillo.

Public health officials say indoor activities in general continue to pose a greater risk of infection versus outdoors.

"I would be a little nervous, personally. But I realize that different people have different values. I'd be nervous because it's indoors. Rows are not the same necessarily spaced apart even as restaurant tables," said Dr. Peter Chin Hong, and infectious disease expert with UCSF.

The Cinemark chain announced additional theaters in Marin and San Mateo counties are slated to open on March 5.

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