SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — On the same day that the National Association of Theater Owners released a plan to reopen “more quickly than outlined under Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan,” the governor pushed back on calls for theaters to reopen come May 29.

Set to reopen in two days – at least in limited capacities – are barber shops, tattoo parlors, hair salons, spas, nonessential retail shops, gyms, and, as of recently, outdoor faith services.

Not among those opening their doors: movie theaters.

The governor on Wednesday said that’s not something set to change soon.

Despite NATO’s calls to reopen sooner than Phase 4 — the phase when gatherings of 50 people (or fewer) are permitted, bars and restaurants reopen as well as schools and all childcare providers — Pritzker said theaters will likely stay categorized in that phase.

Phase 4 is set to begin on June 26 at the earliest; that phase of the state’s reopening plan is contingent upon “the rate of infection among those…tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital continues to decline.”

Reopening theaters sooner is “something that we’ve contemplated for Phase 4 — lower capacity and so on, but not in Phase 3,” he said. “I know that theater owners would like it to be in Phase 3, but it’s just very difficult to imagine it happening.”

He added that as churches begin to reopen their doors, officials would look at what’s working in those spaces to keep people safe from the transmission of COVID-19 and — potentially — apply those ideas to movie theater seating.

In the plan released by NATO earlier Wednesday, the 1,200-member association called the 50-person gathering limited in Phase 3 “arbitrary,” arguing that because some auditorium sizes can seat up to 1,000 people, flexibility on capacity sizes should be grated to the theater owners.

“The alternative plan proposed by NATO of Illinois would allow theaters to safely reopen sooner with new safety and sanitization procedures,” the release states. “It calls for limiting auditorium attendance to 50 percent of their seat capacity.”

Among NATO’s proposed safety measures: Employee temperature checks, the wearing of cloth masks, six-foot seating arrangements and encouraging customers to purchase tickets online to reduce lobby traffic.

“It is important Illinois theaters be allowed to safely reopen right away so workers can return to their jobs, and the movie industry at large can move forward with major film releases. Our proposal balances the protection of employees and guests with the need to restart our economy,” NATO Illinois president Chris Johnson said in the release.

Already, drive-in theaters across the state — including Harvest Moon in Gibson City — have reopened as one of the rare social activities with distancing measures already in place.

Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Michigan chain Goodrich Quality theaters — which ran a movie theater in Savoy — declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In April, financial analysts predicted that AMC theaters could also end up declaring bankruptcy, although that hasn’t happened to-date.

One thing experts are certain of: a global pandemic has “exacerbated longstanding issues that have been shaping the economics of movie exhibition for some time.”

“None of this necessarily means that theaters will close for good, but the changes we’ve been seeing for many years are only going to accelerate in the face of virus-related uncertainty,” University of Illinois Assistant Professor of Media and Cinema Studies Derek Long said recently. “That said, movie exhibition as a whole has always been a surprisingly resilient business, and it has survived pandemics, depressions and technological change in the past. The desire to see movies on opening night with a crowd and to be part of a cultural conversation is still there, and we could very well see a resurgence in moviegoing once people feel safe to mingle in public again.”

“Regardless of what eventually happens with the virus, exhibitors will be forced to find new ways of making the theatrical experience appealing,” he added. “Theaters and moviegoing won’t disappear. But they could look very different.”