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About WhatToWatch.com's theatrical coverage during the pandemic

The interior of a movie theater.
Theaters won't be completely empty for much longer — but that doesn't mean they should be full, either. (Image credit: Getty Images)

We have thoughts about how marketing campaigns and theater reopenings are being handled. While that covers the wide breadth of whether theaters should be opening at all, it doesn’t address how What to Watch will be handling coverage of theatrical reviews as we continue to navigate the pandemic and our nation's response to it.

Here's how we're going to handle things:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

(Image credit: Stormy Cone Photography)

Amelia Emberwing is a longtime entertainment journalist and lover of movie theaters. She's also in charge of the Entertainment coverage at WhatToWatch.com.

And she's serious when she says that no movie is worth risking your health.

What to Watch will not be putting our critics’ health — or the health of theater workers or patrons — at risk just to review a film. And we're not recommending that you should, either.

This industry is important, and we love being in movie theaters more than we love nearly anything else in this world. Theaters are our church. The lobbies are where we get to discuss film with our like-minded colleagues across outlets. But a pandemic doesn’t care how much you love something, your political party affiliation, or how tough you think you are.

You often see outlets note that op-eds are the opinion of the writer (because they are), and that the sites themselves don’t necessarily agree with the opinions put forward by the freelancer. The same can be said for What to Watch as a whole, but it’s important to note that we back everything Matt said in his article yesterday. It’s filled with his opinions, yes. It’s also filled with data from scientists much smarter than us lowly film critics. That data is why I mention it here.

Since then, another article from Time was published. It outlines the dangers of aerosol transmission and is backed by 239 scientists. Aerosol transmission means virus particles linger in the air and can be inhaled well after an infected person has left an enclosed (indoor) space. That was followed by the admission by CDC officials that they were ordered to change the official guidance that testing must happen if you’re in close proximity with someone sick with COVID-19.

Trust me, I know all of that is boring. There is nothing I’d rather do than get back to talking about superhero shows and horror movies on a constant basis again. Just like there’s nothing me and my team would rather be doing than heading safely to a movie theater again so we can tell you all about upcoming films. (And — let's be honest — hug each other. Drink together. Talk face-to-face. We miss our friends, too!) 

The bottom line is this: we will continue to tell you about those upcoming films. If a safe, at-home way for our critics to review the film is provided, we will happily continue to review those films in advance. We also understand that there will be some circumstances where that will not be possible for a whole host of reasons. In that case, we will review the film just as soon as we can. Our mission here at What to Watch has always been to help you sort through all the available options and dig into what the best ones for you are. A pandemic isn’t going to change that!

I mentioned above that we wouldn’t be recommending other folks risk their lives to see a film in theaters, either. As critics, we sometimes get the privilege of seeing a film via screener. This keeps us safe and allows us to do our jobs, but doesn’t do much for you, the viewer. If a film will only be released via theaters to the public, we will be following suit with our friends at the AV Club and Collider by adding a disclaimer to the top of the review noting the following:

[Film] is currently only available to watch in theaters. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recommend checking it out at your local drive-in. If one isn’t available, please be sure to check out state and CDC guidelines before watching in an enclosed space.

We’re not here to tell anyone what to do. If we’re talking opinions, I think going to a movie theater right now is absurd. But our extremely flawed national response to this pandemic still means that it is the consumer’s choice.

What we are doing is stating emphatically that under no circumstance will our critics be putting their health, the health of their family, or the health of workers forced to risk their lives so they can pay rent, at risk to watch a movie.

Theaters are our church. They are not more important than one single human life, yours included. Please stay safe, and keep watching movies!