Spike Lee to Wait for Vaccine Before Returning to Movie Theaters Despite New Safety Protocols

     May 29, 2020


Hollywood has begun mounting an A-list PR campaign that will highlight new safety protocols at movie theaters in an effort to encourage audiences to return once they reopen — just don’t expect Spike Lee to participate.

Variety reports that powerhouse agency CAA is organizing “an executive committee of entertainment industry heavyweights” to supervise the effort, which is being overseen by former IMAX CEO Greg Foster, who currently serves as a consultant to Apple. All seven major studios and the largest theater chains have agreed to share information — and have reportedly received legal permission to do so despite anti-trust laws designed to prevent rival studios from colluding. The pandemic, obviously, is a special circumstance, and it’s better for everyone –the people who work in entertainment and those who simply consume it — that there will be some unity among those in charge.

Foster and CAA are keeping their plans close to the vest at the moment, with details to come at a later time, though Variety reports that “any major reopening [will be] contingent on sign off from health agencies, naturally.


Image via Warner Bros.

CAA is expected to make its top talent available for the promotional campaign, which will detail new cleaning measures for theaters, which will likely keep social-distanced seating policies in place when they do reopen. Studios are expected to release popular library titles first in an effort to give theater workers time to fine-tune their safety procedures. The National Association of Theatre Owners will come up with the marketing material for the new initiative, which will initially focus on the domestic marketplace.

Which brings us back to Spike Lee. The Oscar-winning filmmaker told Vanity Fair that he’s inclined to wait for a vaccine before returning to movie theaters and sporting events.

“I know I’m not going to a movie theater. I know I’m not going to a Broadway show. I know I’m not going to Yankee Stadium,” said Lee. “Corona is a bitch. Corona is not playing. You fuck around you’re going to get killed, you’re going to die. I’m not ready to go,” he added.

Lee’s latest movie, the Vietnam-set drama Da 5 Bloods, will debut June 12 on Netflix, which means everyone can watch it from the safety of their own home. Lee had been prepping his next film, Prince of Cats, for a summer shoot, but he said it has been called off, and that he doesn’t know when he’s going to be back on a film set.

“How are you going to do a love scene anymore, or an intimate scene? I mean, are you going to do a movie by remote, like Saturday Night Live? I don’t know how you do that. So, we’re on pause now,” said Lee.


Photo by David Lee/Netflix

You can’t blame the 63-year-old filmmaker for his cautious approach given that he lives and often works in New York, which has become a hotbed for the coronavirus. Frankly, Lee’s no-nonsense response to COVID-19 is refreshing — not that other celebrities aren’t taking it seriously, but the idea of A-list stars encouraging ticket buyers to return to theaters is, frankly, alarming. When those same stars return to the same theaters I attend in Los Angeles, then, maybe, I’ll feel comfortable going back.

However, Lee’s reluctance illustrates what I’ve been saying for weeks. There is no incentive for rich celebrities to return to work. Why risk it? They’re all set for life. Lee doesn’t sound like he’s in a hurry to return to set, and I guarantee that there will be plenty of A-listers who disappear from public view until there’s a vaccine. The idea that a film set teeming with dozens if not hundreds of people will be kept 100% clean 100% of the time is laughable, and even if it’s 99% on both fronts, no one wants to take that 1% chance of being exposed to the virus.

While movie theaters remain closed in New York and Los Angeles, there are still films slated to open this summer, including WB’s tentpole Tenet and Disney’s live-action Mulan, both of which will arrive weeks after the Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged, which is scheduled for release on July 1. I’m confident that all of these movies will ultimately be delayed, but in the event that they’re not, make like Spike and do the right thing — wait it out, because no movie is worth risking your life to watch, even one from Christopher Nolan. For the latest news on Tenet, click here.

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