We’re all wondering when we can go back to the multiplex again, as spikes in coronavirus cases, AMC Theatres’ financial struggles and pockets of cinemas letting audiences through their doors again have added to the mood of uncertainty around a grand reopening of movie theaters. But it also begs the question: What will they look like on the other side of COVID-19?

Theaters have been largely closed around the country since March, when the pandemic created chaos within the industry: Hollywood shuttered, new films shifted to streaming, and studios sent their biggest summer movies packing, either to the fall or all the way into 2021.

Now, with states slowly unveiling reopening phases and a couple of high-profile projects scheduled to hit theaters next month – Disney’s live-action “Mulan” (July 24) and Christopher Nolan’s thriller “Tenet” (July 31) – Americans are weighing when exactly they can (and should) safely go back just as change to a pop-culture pastime seems inevitable.

“It’s going to be an evolution, not a revolution, that happens in the way people consume movies in the theater,” says Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

Audiences may have “amazing memories” of going to the movies, but “those days may be gone for good if we don’t get rid of this virus or if another iteration of this virus happens,” says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations. “This one has scared people. And it was serious enough that it’s going to change habits.”

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