Engineers say ventilation will be key in reopening movie theaters


DENVER (KDVR) — AMC is planning on opening dozens of movie theaters on Aug. 20, including six in Colorado.

The company is promising enhanced cleaning procedures, and will be requiring masks and social distancing.

But one of the biggest changes could involve ventilation — something engineers say will not be easy. 

“You don’t want to be in a poorly ventilated space, where there’s a lot of people and they’re not wearing masks,” says Shelly Miller. “That’s the highest risk you can put yourself in.”

Miller spoke at length about ventilation on a COVID-19 research panel this week, highlighting the need for proper ventilation in classrooms and other enclosed areas. 

“The general principle is that we really want to dilute the inside air with outside air,” she says. “If we don’t have virus-free outside air, then we put the air through a filter and the filter removes any particles that may contain the virus.”

AMC says it has invested millions of dollars in MERV-13 filters, which Miller recommends. 

“If you’re putting the filter in an HVAC system, the air is only going to go through it once,” she says. “So you need a really high-efficient filter, and that is what a MERV-13 or higher does.”

The initial reopening is a part of a phased plan to open about 2/3 of its more than 600 theaters by Sept. 3. The other theaters will follow when state and local officials allow it, the company stated.

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