Since the pandemic caused the theatrical exhibition industry to come to an abrupt halt last year, some theaters have slowly reopened across the country. But until last week, the nation’s two biggest markets – New York and Los Angeles – remained shuttered. New York has been back in action for a few days, and today, new projections indicate that Los Angeles movie theaters could reopen as soon as next week based on the number of coronavirus cases in the area.

THR reports that Los Angeles movie theaters might only be a scant number of days away from being able to reopen, although they’ll certainly have restrictions in place like 25 percent capacity or no more than 100 people in any auditorium. Today, Los Angeles County moved from the purple tier to the less-restrictive red tier in Governor Gavin Newsom’s reopening system thanks to a decreased number of COVID-19 cases in the area. If that trend continues for one more week, L.A. theaters should be able to open their doors on March 19.

Deadline says the reopening could actually happen even sooner; it all boils down to the number of vaccinations that can happen and if the daily cases per 100,000 residents drop below 10. But keep in mind that even if they receive the go-ahead from the state, “the county itself has to decide if it’s OK to proceed here after it meets the state’s requirements.” Not to mention the fact that theater chains will probably need to ramp back up, hire more people, and train workers on how to operate under the new COVID restrictions. But after an excruciatingly long year, this is a step in the right direction and could finally be a sign that theatrical moviegoing could once again be approaching a level of normalcy in the somewhat near future. THR says “the larger Los Angeles market provided nearly 9 percent of all box office revenue in 2019,” and the combination of L.A. and New York being open should go a long way toward jumpstarting the theatrical film business after the longest dormant period in living memory.

I’ll just wrap this up by saying that we still can’t recommend that you actually visit a movie theater in person until you’ve been vaccinated, and even then new CDC guidelines say to continue to wear masks in public places. But after a year away, we’re finally getting close to a point where it won’t feel actively dangerous to go to a theater again.

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