Movie theaters and cinemas are slowly opening up in the region. But they are potentially one of the most difficult spaces in which to contain the spread of a virus as potent as the COVID-19. Several factors are the cause of this:
1. Movie theaters are enclosed spaces - where the ventilation system is the only aspect involved in keeping the air clean
2. A large number of people congregate in theaters - and a varied number keep coming in through the day depending on the show that is being put on.
3. Ticket and food counters are always thronged by people wanting that packet of popcorn or that cold drink. These food items are then brought into the theatre and they fall all over the place - under the seats, on the seats, amidst the cushion covers, on the hand rests, etc.
However, as they say - and pun intended - the show must go on! Therefore, movie theaters in the region have outsourced cleaning to some of the best service providers working on cleaning and disinfecting the premises.
Disinfection front & centre
Cleaning and disinfection has to be at the front of all theatre owners’ minds - and it will definitely be so on the customer’s mind! Keeping a regular cleaning checklist is extremely important - ensuring that spot cleaning and disinfection is done every time a show is over, will help contain a lot of the contamination. But what one must keep in mind is that contamination starts right from the time someone enters the parking area all the way to the theatre.
Here are some of the regular activities that can be done:
1. Signage is the most important aspect inside and outside. People must be aware of the safety protocols involved. Whether its in the parking area, or ticket and food counters, washroom or inside the theater.
2. Ensure that sanitizing stations are positioned strategically just outside the building.
3. Waste bins should also be easily available so any used tissue paper etc., can be thrown quickly.
4. Ticket and food counters: Have a solid screen dividing the ticket assistant and customers - ensure hand sanitizers are kept at every counter and use a sanitizing spray after every customer. DO NOT wipe immediately.
5. Sanitising stations should be kept at every entrance and exit.
6. Tickets must be checked by automated machines to prevent as much contact as possible.
7. Washroom hygiene is a huge part of the theater experience. Use automated dispensing machines and taps.
8. Ensure that ample soap and sanitizer is placed in all washrooms. Toilet paper, feminine hygiene products should be easily available.
Once people enter the theater, strict action must be taken for regular cleaning.
1. Regular sweeping: Every time a show is over, the cleaning team must go into the theaters and sweep the entire theatre - removing all dry debris.
Seats are where contact happens regularly. Use alternate seats for every consecutive show. For instance, if seats 1, 3, 5, 7 are used in the matinee show, they need to be cleaned, wiped down and sprayed with a disinfectant that must be left to do its action - not wiped off! For the next show, seats 2, 4, 6, and 8 must be used.
3. In terms of deep cleaning, every night the theaters must be fogged and seats must be cleaned using steam machines to prevent contamination.
4. Regular checks of the HVAC systems must be done to ensure that the indoor air quality is at its optimum.
5. Ensure that all high touch points like handles, doors, hand rests, railings, elevator buttons, etc are constantly disinfected.
6. Do not forget to ensure disinfection in projection rooms, back of house areas and offices.
Cleaning and disinfecting products one can use in the theaters include:
• Windows separating the ticket assistant or server at food counters can be cleaned quickly with a squeegee and a microfibre cloth. This is also applicable to all other surfaces.
• Vacuum cleaners help with carpet cleaning; flat mops help in spot cleaning of spills, etc.
• Backpack vacuums are extremely functional when it comes to cleaning quickly and between aisles and seats!
• Floor scrubbers can be the ideal option for cleaning floors outside the auditorium
• Cleaning chemicals and disinfectants must be used at discretion to ensure that the right product is being used for the right material.
• Look at alternate options for disinfecting if your product is not fast acting. Anti-microbial coatings, steam cleaning, electrostatic sprays, etc., are extremely effective nowadays!
• PPE for all attendants and cleaners is super important!
• Ensure that cleaning is done every single moment! Invest in good training and proper staff. Every time a surface is touched, try and ensure that it cleaned down within just a few minutes! It HAS to be done. Not only does it prevent contamination, but it also reassures patrons that the cinema is taking all possible measures of safety.
• Invest in technologies that help manage and supervise cleaning tasks better. Apps and cloud software can help in this! There is a plethora of options out there.
Like always, get the basics right, invest in proper training and products! If all proper protocols and practices are put in place, there is no reason why theatres can slowly go back to functioning almost like pre-pandemic!