Garfield County Theaters discuss behind the scenes to bring the experience back to the big screen
Streaming services have been the saving grace for many at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Despite the plethora of documentaries, films and shows available, none of the platforms captured the experience of going to the movies, sitting in plush seats and being able to enjoy a movie on the big screen.
Movie theaters have had to adapt and find ways to make people sitting in a dark room full of strangers feel safe again so that individuals can come back and have a worry-free visit while still maintaining the magic of the film.
Carbondale’s Crystal Theater turned to movie streaming during the pandemic, so people could buy tickets online and watch from the comfort of their own homes. They also started selling dealerships on weekends, and co-owner Kathy Ezra said that’s when they really feel the support of the community.
“We have been really supported by our customers during COVID. They just, you know, support emails, people who sent in contributions, people overpaid when Bob was selling dealerships. People were buying discount cards and gift cards, not knowing when they were going to be able to use them again. The faith, support and trust that we have received from people… it is beyond humility. You know, it’s a real motivator.
Ezra and her husband, Bob, took advantage of the time they were closed to complete some maintenance projects in the theater and improve their ventilation and air purification installation. The couple made the decision to admit only vaccinated customers when they launched their soft opening, likely in late June.
“We know it’s a bit controversial. There might be some hindsight on this one, but the assumption still was, when do you reopen? Well you reopen when everyone is vaccinated and (it’s) safe for people to sit there, ”said Bob Ezra.
Movieland in El Jebel was available for hire, but Bow-Tie Cinemas CEO Bob Moss has also confirmed it will reopen for later this month.
“We are reopening Movieland on June 18 and look forward to serving our loyal Roaring Fork Valley customers again,” Moss said in an email.
The Brenden Rifle 7 theaters stand out from the rest in that they were able to reopen 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 rules in place. Because many release dates of larger titles have been pushed back due to COVID-19, theater attendance has declined in recent months.
“As movies start to come out with big titles and great actors, we see people coming back to the movies. This has been the greatest driving force behind our business, ”said Kelly.
He mentioned “F9” from the “Fast and Furious” series and “Black Widow” from Marvel as two of the big firsts he hopes to bring back to theaters. A high percentage of employees are vaccinated, Kelly said, and the company has encouraged them to get vaccinated with four hours of pay. Kelly added that they will not ask clients for proof of vaccination status, nor will they apply the masks.
“We’re just in good faith to give them the opportunity to do what’s safe. And if they are vaccinated, we give them the opportunity to make that choice, ”Kelly said.
With the creation of the Brenden Theater app, customers now have the ability to reserve seats in advance and even purchase concessions in advance to reduce lobby time and streamline the process. Attendees will still be sidelined in theaters with some seats closed, but Kelly said he and his staff were excited about what the summer will bring.
“My staff and I have worked tirelessly to provide a safe environment for our customers. And we will continue to do so. It’s just part of the services we would be providing anyway. We look forward to a good summer with great movies and people coming back to see them, ”said Kelly.
Journalist Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or [email protected]