Movie theaters in Garfield County discuss behind the scenes for bringing back the big screen experience
Streaming services were the saving grace for many during the height of the pandemic lockdown for COVID-19. Despite the plethora of documentaries, movies and shows available, none of the platforms captured the experience of going to the movie theater, sitting in plush seats and being able to enjoy a film on the big screen.
Movie theaters have had to adapt and find ways to make sitting in a dark room full of strangers feel safe again so individuals could return and have a worry-free visit while still maintaining the movie magic.
Crystal Theatre in Carbondale moved toward streaming films during the pandemic, so folks could buy tickets online and watch from the comfort of their homes. They also took to selling concessions on the weekends, and co-owner Kathy Ezra said it was in these moments when they really felt community support.
“We were really propped up by our patrons during COVID. They just, you know, emails of support, people sent contributions, people way overpaid when Bob would sell concessions. People bought discount passes and gift cards, never knowing when they were going to be able to use them again. The faith and the support and the confidence we got from people … it’s beyond humbling. You know, it’s a real motivator.”
Ezra and her husband, Bob, used the time they were closed to complete some maintenance projects in the theater and improve their ventilation and air purifying setup. The couple made the decision to admit only vaccinated patrons when they launch their soft opening, likely at the end of June.
“We know that’s a little kind of controversial. There might be some pushback on that one, but the assumption was always, when do you reopen? Well, you reopen when everybody’s vaccinated, and (it’s) safe for people to sit there,” Bob Ezra said.
Movieland in El Jebel was available for rent, but Ben Moss, CEO of Bow Tie Cinemas, confirmed its reopening for later this month, as well.
“We are reopening Movieland on June 18 and looking forward to once again serving our loyal customers in the Roaring Fork Valley,” Moss stated in an email.
Brenden Rifle 7 Theaters stands apart from the rest in that it was able to reopen back at the end of August 2020. General manager Tyler Kelly said it took a lot of rethinking their setup to minimize crowds, control the flow of traffic and keep social distancing regulations in place. Because a lot of bigger titles’ release dates were pushed back due to COVID-19, attendance was down for the theater the last few months.
“As movies start to release that have big titles and big actors in them, we’re seeing people come back to the movies. That’s been the biggest driving force in our business,” Kelly said.
He mentioned “F9” from the “Fast and Furious” series and “Black Widow” from Marvel as two of the big premieres he expects to bring many back out to the theaters. A high percentage of employees are vaccinated, Kelly said, and the company encouraged them to get the vaccine with the compensation of four hours of pay. Kelly added that they won’t be asking for proof of vaccination status from patrons and also won’t be enforcing masks.
“We’re just in good faith to give them the option to do what is safe. And if they’re vaccinated, we give them the option to make that choice,” Kelly said.
With the creation of the Brenden Theater app, customers now have the option to reserve their seats ahead of time and even buy concessions beforehand as a way to reduce time in the lobby and streamline the process. Attendees will still be distanced in the theaters with certain seats being closed off, but Kelly said he and his staff are excited for what the summer will bring.
“My staff and I have worked tirelessly to provide a safe environment for our customers to come back to. And we’re going to continue to do that. It’s just a part of the services we would provide anyways. We’re just looking forward to a good summer with good movies and people coming back to see them,” Kelly said.
Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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