GENEVA — Warm up the popcorn machines. Movie theaters in Lyons, Canandaigua and Victor, closed by the COVID-19 virus since March, are reopening today. And others around the region are poised to follow.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed that upstate movie theaters that can meet requirement for social distancing, 25-percent seating capacity, mask wearing and hand sanitizing can light up their big screens, beginning today. New York City theaters, however, remain closed.
Those in the Finger Lakes region include Geneva Movieplex 8 on Hamilton Street, the Smith Opera House on Seneca Street in Geneva, Canandaigua Theatres on County Road 10, the Ohmann Theatre on William Street in Lyons, Lake Street Plaza Theater in Penn Yan, and Regal Eastview Theater in Victor.
“It’s been tough being closed so long, but I’m happy we’re reopening tonight. I’ve still had to pay taxes and utilities on the theater with no revenue coming in,” said Bob Ohmann, owner of the historic Lyons theater. “We’re fortunate, however. A lot of theaters shuttered their doors permanently. I just hope they don’t shut us down again. That would not be fair.”
The Ohmann Theatre opened in 1915, and Ohmann said when the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic hit in 1918 it was only closed for two weeks. Ohmann also owns a collegiate league baseball team that plays at McDonough Park in Geneva, and he notes that games were played there this summer with proper protections taken.
“We’re not required to take temperatures at the door, but I think we will,” he said. “We’ve got two theaters, one holds 400 and we’ll allow no more than 50, and a smaller one holds 65 and we will allow 16 to be seated. I have extra staff and the concession stand will be open with six-foot distancing and masks.”
He said every other row of seats will be used and patrons will be six feet or more apart. Restrooms will allow only one person at a time.
The Ohmann will show “Tenet” and “Unhinged” at staggered times tonight with matinees and night showings Saturday and Sunday.
The Smith Opera House in downtown Geneva will wait to reopen its movie showings until Halloween weekend, according to Executive Director Susie Monagan. The historic Smith will show two Halloween classics, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” from 1975 and “Ghosbusters” from 1984.
Rocky Horror will be shown at 9 p.m. Oct. 30 and Ghostbusters will be shown at 2 p.m. Oct. 31. Tickets are $10 for Ghostbusters and $15 for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which includes a Rocky Horror Goody Prop Bag. Costumes are encouraged, Monagan said, and doors open at 8 p.m.
Because of COVID-19, all tickets must be purchased online at thesmith.org and seating for the show is limited to 50 people. There will be no ticket sales at the door, and all ticket buyers will receive assigned seats upon arrival.
Monagan said all ticket buyers agree to abide by the Smith’s policies, which include the pre-assigned seating, wearing a face covering at the venue, maintaining six feet distance among patrons and abiding by all signs posted in the building.
“Back in March when our stage went dark, we didn’t anticipate how long the wait would be,” Monagan said. “The pandemic dealt a mighty blow to The Smith, but we support sensible public health measures that keep our community safe. We are so grateful to be able to open up to screen movies on the largest screen in the Finger Lakes.”
“It will be fun to have costumed patrons walking through our doors over Halloween weekend and to smell freshly opened popcorn. As long as Ontario County’s COVID case numbers stay under control, we will be scheduling films throughout the end of the year,” Monagan said.
The Geneva Movieplex 8 Facebook page has this statement: “It’s been awhile since we could enjoy a great movie on the BIG screen with hot, fresh popcorn in reclining seats. We are getting the theatres ready for your business and will be reopened soon. Please check back for a reopening date.”
Canandaigua Theatres announced they will show movies today and posted this message: “Welcome back to the movies this Friday, October 23 here at Canandaigua Theatres.” Show times are listed for the movies “Empty Man,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Honest Thief,” “Monsters Inc.,” “Tenet” and “War With Grandpa,” along with ticket purchasing information. The theater will continue to offer curbside pickup sales of popcorn, candy and soft drinks. The number for more information is (585) 396-0110.
Lance McFetridge, owner of Lake Street Plaza Theatre in Penn Yan, said the reopening permission announcement caught him offguard.
“We won’t be showing movies this weekend. I have nothing booked. I’ll be talking to my booking agent Monday,” McFetridge said. “The problem is a lack of product. Hollywood hasn’t released a lot of movies. I’d very much like to get going again and hopefully we can get movies here by next weekend.”
The theater will continue its Friday and Saturday night curbside popcorn, soft drink and candy sales.
“We’ve got the safety protocols in place and are ready to go,” he said. The theater has 400 seats and when the first movie is shown, capacity will be 100 people for each of the three screens.
Regal Theatres, owned by Cineworld of Knoxville, Tenn., announced that it will resume operations at 11 Regal theaters in the state Friday, including the one at Eastview Mall in Victor.
“We are grateful to finally have initial guidelines from the state,” said Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld. “With the implementation of robust health and safety measures as a part of our commitment to the CinemaSafe protocols, our New York theaters and staff are thoroughly prepared for a safe and sustainable reopening. After seven months, we are thrilled to welcome back our beloved staff and customers.”
Regal Theatre operations in other American markets will remain temporarily suspended due to the lack of new movie releases. Cinemas must have a solid pipeline of new movies in order to maintain stable operations, Greidinger said.
He said with the opening of cinemas in New York, Regal is hoping the studios will reschedule some of the movies that they put on hold to be released in November and December. The movies available tonight and over the weekend are “Monsters Inc.,” “The Empty Man,” “Honest Thief,” “The War With Grandpa,” “The Broken Heart Gallery,” “Tenet,” “The New Mutants” and “Unhinged.”
For additional information, visit REGmovies.com.