WENATCHEE — Movies are coming back to Wenatchee Nov. 6. But for those looking to catch their first flick in a theater in months, the mask-on viewing experience will be a bit different.
There will be no crowded theaters or tall people unintentionally blocking the screen at these 25% capacity movie showings.
Gateway Cinema plans to open up in Wenatchee come Nov. 6., but the big screen business is still far from normal with few film releases and limited seating. The shift to reopen comes after Gov. Jay Inslee moved Chelan and Douglas counties into phase 2 of his Safe Start plan.
This is a challenging time for theater, said Bryan Cook, vice president of Sun Basin Theaters. Sun Basin owns both Gateway and Liberty theaters.
“Our industry is just kind of fighting for its life right now,” he said.
There are a lot of factors affecting the movie theater industry, he said. The plan right now is just to get up and running again, and see where things go.
Statewide COVID-19 shutdowns ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee forced both Gateway and Liberty theaters to close on March 16. A few of the last movies to be released before the shutdown include “Birds of Prey”, “Onward” and “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
Some studios have pushed movies off to streaming services and others have delayed releases until next year, he said. “It’s just kind of up in the air right now.”
The closure has been really tough, he said. Be it insurance, mortgage payments or property tax, “the bills don’t stop.” The Wenatchee theaters went from 50 employees down to about five employees during the closure.
Cook said he thought it would be best to wait on opening until it gets a little closer to the holidays. During Thanksgiving and Christmas time people generally want to do something, go out and have some fun.
“We’re hoping that this will be a good time to reopen,” he said.
The reopening date for Liberty Theater in downtown Wenatchee is still undetermined, he said. There are just not enough movies to get Liberty going right now, he said.
Once open, people coming to watch movies will be socially distanced, he said. Every other seating row is marked off to help distance moviegoers from each other. If a group sits down in one spot, there will be three empty seats before another sits down near them.
The hope is that patrons will come back and support the theaters, said Cook. “We’re excited to get it going and see what happens.”