Shuttered movie theaters use signs to inspire safety, kindness and laughter

Among the industries hardest by the coronavirus pandemic is film exhibition. From megaplexes to arthouses, movie theaters have been forced to close across all 50 states due to government-mandated (and frankly, common sense-driven) restrictions to enforce social distancing in public spaces and venues.

Things are so grim in the movie-screening business that according to Deadline, only 14 movie theaters remained open as of this past weekend, nearly all of them drive-ins, some of which have since closed. Weekend box-office grosses have topped $4,000 the past three weekends. By comparison, theaters brought in more than $100 million total the first weekend of March, and $182 million over Valentine’s weekend.

Still, the movie theaters of America are offering the scant passerbys some of the most inspiring (and amusing) messages during these difficult, strange times in a manner that Netflix and Amazon can’t duplicate: via their good old-fashioned marquees.

The messages are being received, with dozens of images of being shared to social media over the past few weeks. Below are some of the best we’ve seen.

“We will get through this together but apart,” reads the marquee for Royal Cinemas, which looks over a deserted Main St. in Front Royal, Va.

The Emmaus Theater in Emmaus, Pa., takes a more comical approach to social distancing, referencing a certain 1986 coming of age classic.

The Loft Cinema in Tucson, Ariz., is raising positivity.

The Sunray Cinema in Jacksonville, Fla., captures the surrealism of what it feels like to go outside when everyone is wearing masks and gloves.

Hereditary and Midsommar writer-director Ari Aster shared this Monty Python-channeling image of the famed North Park Theatre in Buffalo, N.Y.

The Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines, N.C., is not ready to be terminated.

The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Va., also has social-distancing jokes.

 The Cobble Hills Cinema in Brooklyn keeps it earnest in the reeling streets of New York.

 Same for the West Shore Theatre in New Cumberland, Pa.

The Nitehawk in Brooklyn manages to quote Ozzy Ozborne (or Korn?) AND Bill & Ted, while giving new meaning to Disney-Pixar’s latest animated release.

Finally, though, our MVP movie marquee in the time of coronavirus belongs to the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pa., which has been cycling through various punny movie titles related to our new reality. (They’re also apparently making it a communal exercise, with a marquee title contest to submit titles. Yes, of course we entered some.)

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides. 

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