This week in history: How movie theaters reopened after the 1918 flu pandemicAlison Martinon May 8, 2020 at 2:27 am

As reported in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Gov. Pritzker unveiled his Reopen Illinois plan for a post-pandemic world this week, giving Illinoisans a glimpse of when they may go to see a play or catch a ballgame again.

As Chicago battled the 1918 influenza pandemic, there was one type of business many residents longed to see open once again: movie and vaudeville theaters.

In a report from the October 29, 1918 edition of the Chicago Daily News, city public health officials detailed their plan for reopening North Side theaters the next day.

“All premises on which public amusement places are situated are undergoing to-day a rigid inspection by health officials,” the report said. Theaters that failed their inspections would be refused written permission to reopen.

Health officials would also make their stage debut before each show, according to the report, and give a two-minute presentation called “How to Escape the Influenza.”

The report said officials predicted about 25% of the theaters would be refused permits due to unsanitary conditions.

So how long had theaters been closed? Just two and a half weeks, the report said.

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