Smoky skies drive people indoors to recently-opened movie theaters in Bay Area

Cinemark reveals how it will protects movie goers amid COVID-19 pandemic.
SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The smoky conditions across the Bay Area have many of us trying to find things we can do to avoid breathing the smoke in. Cinemark Theaters have given us a new option after seven opened last week in the Bay Area, and four more are opening Friday in Richmond, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and Danville.

The San Francisco skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Port of Oakland were all covered by a haze of smoke Thursday. The solution for some is going to a movie theater.

"My mom does not like smoke at all, like she does not like at all smoke so she doesn't let us go outside that much," says Issa Natour of San Mateo. Issa was allowed to go to his buddy Patrick's 12th birthday at Cinemark - Century 12 in San Mateo on Thursday.

LIVE: Track Bay Area air quality levels

"It's very smoky outside, I thought it would be a good idea to get the boys out, bring them to the movies. They've been remote learning for quite a while," says Sarah Howard of San Mateo.

In San Mateo County, movie theaters are able to be open at 25 percent capacity or a hundred person max. Thursday Howard rented out a theater for her son's birthday. A fee that costs between 99 and 149 dollars. Not bad for 20 people.

RELATED: 'You can cut it with a knife': Thick smoke keeping Bay Area temperatures cooler during trifecta of dangerous weather

"I had a soccer practice today, but it was cancelled obviously, but in the theater it was really nice there was no smoke," says Sophia Doss who was attending the birthday.

But is it safe with COVID-19 still out there? Those from Cinemark say 'yes.'

"Every single auditorium has its own air conditioned unit. We've actually been open for more than three and a half months at this time and have not had any issues whatsoever," says Chanda Brashears of Cinemark. Brashears is referring to other locations and states where theaters have been open.

"It's been so boring but we finally got to do something fun," says Patrick Howard who turned 12 Thursday. His group of friends wore their masks, as it is required during the movie, and when patrons are not eating or drinking anything.

RELATED: Doctors warn to take Air Quality Index readings seriously, dangerous levels could cause lung damage

When it comes to air quality standards at Cinemark Theaters here is the statement they released to us:

ADVANCED 3-POINT AIR QUALITY STANDARD: Cinemark's stringent air quality standards are designed to deliver an abundant supply of fresh outdoor air, maintain optimal air circulation, eliminate potential pollutants and, of course, provide our guests with a comfortable temperature and humidity level.

RELATED: Tour of Bay Area Century Theatres shows what will be different when you go back to the movies

1. Increased fresh-air rate. We are substantially raising the fresh-air rate of our building HVAC systems by constantly utilizing supply fans to increase the total volume of fresh, outside air flowing into our theatres.

2. Smart-flow air circulation design. Our air circulation system diffuses air from the ceiling down toward the floor where it is then returned to our air filtration equipment.

3. Elimination of pollutants. We are integrating Bipolar Ionization - an advanced technology generating high concentrations of ions which continuously seek out and deactivate airborne viruses, mold, bacteria, allergens and odors, reducing 99.9% of microbes, including COVID-19. Bipolar ionization is now being used by leading hospitals, universities and office buildings.

Here is the safety plan that the Cinemark theaters are following:

1. Each auditorium will be extensively disinfected between showtimes using pressurized sprayers with products identified by the EPA to be effective in eliminating COVID-19.

2. Theatres will have staggered showtimes and limited capacities to maximize physical distancing.
3. Seat-Buffering Technology will automatically block seats adjacent to a party upon ticket purchase.

4. Face masks will be mandatory for all guests within the theatre and may only be removed for eating and drinking in the auditoriums. Face masks and gloves will be required for all employees.

5. Cinemark is raising the fresh air rate by adding refresh and replace cycles and utilizing supply fans to increase total volume of fresh, outside air flowing into our theatres.

6. Cinemark vacuums are equipped with HEPA filters identified to be effective in trapping at least 99.97 percent of microscopic particles, including COVID-19.

7. All public and high-touch spaces will be thoroughly sanitized every 30 minutes.

8. Ample supplies of seat wipes and hand sanitizer will be available for customer use.

9. Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets online and use contactless payment methods for a more contact-free experience. With that, cash payments options will be limited.

FIRE TRACKER: Track wildfires across San Francisco Bay Area, other parts of California with this interactive map


App users: For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window
RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.