When Can I Go to the Movie Theater Again After Being Fully Vaccinated?

Movie theater COVID

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Key Takeaways

  • Experts say that most fully vaccinated people can go to the movie theater safely if precautions are taken.
  • You should consider your medical history and local case rates before deciding to go to theaters again.
  • Theaters will likely be allowed to increase capacity to 100% once herd immunity has been achieved and case rates have dropped locally and regionally. 

Unsurprisingly, movie theater attendance has plummeted since the beginning of the pandemic. But as vaccine rollout steadily increases—with 16.9% of the U.S. population already fully vaccinated—you may be able to see a summer blockbuster or two on the big screen in the coming months.

If you plan on celebrating your vaccination status with a trip to the movies anytime soon, here are some tips on what to consider before you go and how to stay safe.

What to Consider Before You Go

First, Chunhuei Chi, MPH, director of the center for global health at Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, tells Verywell, it is important to make sure you're fully vaccinated. You're considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or two weeks after your single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

Once those two weeks are up, however, “one can go to movie theaters if the movie theater implements hygiene and safety measures,” Chi says. These include spacing “out viewers with reduced occupancy and regular cleaning and disinfecting of the facility,” he adds.

Before you decide to head to the theater, Chi recommends you consider two things.

Take a look at local case rates. If your county is still reporting a significant number of new infections, illnesses, and deaths daily, you should wait until the situation is better controlled.

And keep in mind your medical history. If you are immunocompromised, you should be especially mindful of the potential risk. “I recommend using more conservative criteria [if you're immunocompromised], such as waiting until the daily new cases in your county are no more than one per 100,000 residents, plus wearing a facial mask and practicing all safety hygiene measures,” Chi says. 

In addition, you should not use your vaccination status as an excuse to forego public health guidelines. "In public, where many are not vaccinated, you must still wear a mask and socially distance,” Robert Murphy, MD, professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, tells Verywell. 

What This Means For You

If you decide to go to a movie after being fully vaccinated, don’t let your guard down. Continue to wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands frequently. While at the theater, don't eat or drink as it will require you to remove your mask and make sure there's space between you and other moviegoers.

Practicing Caution During the Movie

So you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided to forge ahead with your plan to see a movie. Now what? 

Once at the theater, Chi says, you should be sure to take standard safety precautions, though their stringency depends on the severity and prevalence of COVID-19 in your region. While at the theater:

  • Wear a face mask
  • Don’t eat or drink because it will entail removing your mask
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands. If you have to, squeeze a dollop of hand sanitizer onto your palm beforehand
  • Sit as far as possible from others (with the exception of any companions)
  • Wash your hands and change your clothes upon returning home

“By the time there have been zero daily new cases for at least two weeks in your region, you may relax some of these measures and can have food and drink while watching a movie,” Chi says. 

Murphy also emphasizes the importance of masking and social distancing. “[W]ear a mask and stay at least 3 feet away from other people,” he says.

When Will Theaters Be Full Again?

Many theaters that remained open or reopened have been forced to make concessions to the pandemic, including enforcing strict capacity limits. In Massachusetts, for example, theaters are restricted to 50% of their maximum permitted capacity. In New York, they are restricted to 25% or 50 people.

“Increasing to full capacity at a theater will depend on reaching herd immunity or limiting attendance to VO [vaccinated people only],” Murphy says.

Chi agrees that theaters can increase their capacity once 70% or more of the community is fully vaccinated and new daily COVID-19 cases have fallen below 10 per one million. He describes these conditions as “rather strict and conservative” but, according to a case study of Taiwan, likely sound.

“With a population of 23.8 million, Taiwan has been able to prevent any community outbreak since April 12, 2020," he says. "Even with such safe conditions—literally zero daily new domestic cases—Taiwan’s movie theaters and concert halls still implement reduced capacity and mandatory facial mask-wearing."

It’s a complex issue, he adds, one that is in large part informed by “state, county, and metropolitan health authorities.”

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When you’ve been fully vaccinated: how to protect yourself and others.

  3. Safety standards and checklist: theaters and performance venues.

  4. New York State Department of Health. Interim guidance for movie theaters during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

By Caroline Tien
Caroline Tien is a journalist with degrees in English and biology. She has previously written for publications including Insider and Cancer Health.