Film buffs and staff alike revel in the reopening of the Capitol Theater in Eagle: “Feels like we never left”
The Capitol Theater in Eagle is reaching pre-COVID-19 attendance levels, boosting renewed confidence among theater owners and loyal customers that the movie industry is here to stay.
As the months of the COVID-19 pandemic stretched and other local businesses scrambled to change their business models to conserve revenue, Eagle’s Capitol Theater remained closed from March 2020 until barely two weeks.
Meanwhile, sweatpants have become the collective uniform and streaming services have tightened their grip on public consumption of films, leading some to speculate that the pandemic could mean the end of cinemas.
In a busy community like Eagle County, where the mountains are still calling, some thought cinemas were unlikely to succeed long before the screens went down for a year.
It all weighed on the mind of Capitol Theater owner Steve Lindstrom, of course, but the movie industry has persevered through a century of change and he has said he’s not yet ready to give up.
âIt’s a pretty old industry,â Lindstrom said. âHe’s a hundred and twenty years old. Film, cinemas have been through a lot.
Movie theaters weathered the 1918 pandemic and the Great Depression. They have remained relevant with the advent of countless new forms of entertainment, from integrating radio and television broadcasting to home video and DVDs, the Internet and âon-demandâ streaming services, did he declare.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made a difficult year for theaters and the entertainment industry as a whole, Lindstrom said he embarked on the reopening of the Capitol Theater with a positive mindset. .
âA lot of theaters probably won’t be able to reopen and there will still be a lot of stuff streaming online and on cable, but I think there will always be a demand for theaters, local theaters for people to come out. and go do something, âhe said.
Some may be more comfortable watching movies from the comfort of their own home, but these same people surely remember their first movie date as a teenager when they escaped the prying eyes of parents. to hold hands as the theater darkened. They remember the smell of freshly popped popcorn and the thrilling exclusivity brought by midnight outings.
Going to the movies is something special, something novel, said Grace Anshutz, Eagle resident. It’s “different from just watching a Netflix series at home,” she said.
Even the local moviegoers of the younger generation felt this intangible magic when they returned to the Eagle Cinema.
“If you are at home watching a movie you don’t have the same vibes as in the cinema, because in the cinema you are sitting in a room with a big TV screen and then all the lights are on. turn off and the room disappears. silent and the movie begins to play, âsaid Isabella Matteo, a 12-year-old Eagle resident.
For Matteo, the Capitol Theater is her favorite place to meet friends and she said she missed seeing new movies there during the pandemic.
Matteo and his friends went to the theater on opening night, May 21, as well as the following weekend, she said. They were eager to make up for lost time and saw “Godzilla vs. Kong”, “Raya and the Last Dragon” and “Cruella”.
Another resident, Rebecca Lewandowski, said the theater was one of the reasons she and her family loved living at Eagle Ranch, adding that its reopening “made things normal again”.
After going to see the new movie “Tom & Jerry”, her three young children were filled with excitement, she said. The viewing marked her 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter’s first experience in a movie theater.
âI’m so happy that the cinema is open again because I can have popcorn,â her 7-year-old son said.
Fortunately for these residents, the Capitol Theater was able to survive 16 months of closure with the help of the federal CARES Act dollars and other sources of revenue, Lindstrom said.
Lindstrom also owns the apartments that share a building with the theater and the income generated from those rentals helped cover the expenses, he said.
Although he had to put staff on leave, the payroll protection funding made available by the CARES Act helped them get by, he said.
During much of the pandemic, the Capitol Theater displayed a sign that read “Thank you, Senator Bennet, for saving our screens,” as a tribute to US Senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet.
This was prompted by the support Bennet has shown for cinemas and other entertainment venues that have been particularly affected by the COVID-19-related closures, Lindstrom said.
In April 2021, Sens. Bennet and John Hickenlooper wrote a letter urging the Small Business Administration to reopen and make improvements to the Shuttered Venues Operators grant.
Subsidy for operators of closed sites, or SVOG, is designed to support small and medium-sized entertainment venues as they continue their struggle to fully recover from the pandemic, Lindstrom said.
In their letter, the two senators urged the Small Business Administration to relaunch the grant program, establish clear timelines and offer multi-tiered lending, starting with the businesses hardest hit, according to a copy of the letter. ..
The program has since been reopened, according to its website.
The Capitol Theater also received $ 90,000 in Colorado Arts Relief Grant in February of this year.
The theater was hoping to make a comeback in the fall, but the lack of new Hollywood releases combined with a resurgence in COVID-19 cases made it impossible, Lindstrom said.
âHollywood movie studios stopped releasing movies because there was no room to show them and so it’s a real hen and egg around the world, you know, meanwhile. improvements in public health conditions, âhe said.
The theater’s first week has been a bit slow, but things have improved, director Karm Trygg said on Tuesday.
Thanks to public support, the theater has now welcomed any staff who wish to return and has even added a few new employees, Trygg said.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “I won’t say it wasn’t a little weird that first weekend, but now I feel like we never left.”
This weekend, the theater presents “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”, “A Quiet Place Part II”, “Cruella”, “Godzilla vs. Kong”, “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” and “Raya and The Last Dragon.
Mornings will return on Friday with screenings starting at 1 p.m., Trygg said.
Session times can be found on vailmovies.com.
Email Kelli Duncan at [email protected]