PORT ANGELES — The curtain will rise on five movie screens Oct. 30 at the Deer Park Cinema multiplex after a seven-month hiatus driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sun Basin Theaters announced this week.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s Oct. 6 untightening of health restrictions for movie theaters paves the way for the movie house east of Port Angeles to open next Friday.
But it’s not relaxed enough to turn the lights on at the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, owner Rocky Friedman said Thursday.
Sun Basin owner Bryan Cook said shows at the multiplex’s five theaters at 96 Deer Park Lane will be offered Friday through Sunday at the 25 percent capacity Inslee allowed statewide for movie theaters in Phase 2 areas such as Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Inslee’s statewide shutdown of movie theaters began March 16.
“We’re excited to get going again,” Cook said.
“It’s been a long seven months.
“The industry has been devastated by this. We are kind of fighting for our survival, I guess you might say.”
Cook is urging Deer Park Cinema moviegoers to purchase tickets in advance at tinyurl.com/PDN-MovieTickets for showings of “Tenet,” “The War with Grandpa,” “Honest Thief,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Hocus Pocus.”
Cook said the multiplex will follow health safety protocols listed at tinyurl.com/PDN-CinemaSafe.
Customers will be required to wear face coverings when not eating or drinking and be urged to use credit cards when purchasing food or drink at the concession stand.
Each theater has a capacity of 100-130, so 25-32 patrons will be allowed for each show.
Theater seating will be arranged to maintain a 6-foot distances, or the length of two seats, between individuals or groups who are attending together.
Seating will be allowed in every other row.
Cook said Deer Park Cinema’s 20-person staff has been trimmed to about 12 while it operates on limited hours.
“Hopefully, that will be just for the first couple of weeks to see how the demand goes,” he said.
“We are hoping that people come back and support us.
“It will be tough going until, obviously, we get back to normal.”
Friedman said the 25 percent occupancy limit is too low to make reopening his 235 Taylor St. movie house viable. Even the 50 percent occupancy allowed for Phase 3 counties would be a stretch, Friedman added.
“I’ve gone over it and gone over it,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense financially.
“Those theaters that can make it work at 25 percent, I applaud them.”
He does expect to begin showing films again in 2021, and he was thankful for that. Friedman was facing dire choices.
A GoFundMe drive in September to keep the movie house afloat raised more than $100,000 in two days and $186,733 from 1,500 donors as of Thursday.
“The kind of response the campaign generated is hugely gratifying,” he said.
“It was completely overwhelming.”
As a virtual substitute for in-person viewing, the Rose is offering a streamed movie service at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-RoseTheatre that Friedman is preparing to make permanent.
He sells popcorn on Saturdays from the concession counter.
And he’s installing health upgrades such as touchless sinks and a new heating-ventilation system that will help keep customers safe when they return.
Friedman said if he did open now, his movie offerings would be limited by production stoppages.
Some movies have opened, but with limited success.
“Tenet,” the $205 million Christopher Nolan film, has packed theaters, but not so much in the U.S.
“It did extremely well in foreign countries that have managed the virus better than the U.S.,” Friedman said
“When they released it here, it didn’t do very well.
“The way the country is now with the virus, people are just not ready for it.”
Friedman also is concerned that patrons will not return in sufficient numbers while coronavirus cases continue to increase — and while health officials continue to caution against participating in non-household gatherings as the holidays approach.
COVID-19 cases have grown by 70 percent in Clallam and Jefferson counties since Aug. 23, matching the growth statewide.
“None of the managers feel safe coming back to work at this time,” Friedman said.
“I’m preparing to not be open until next year.
“It’s really hard to comprehend when I think about that, that my business might be closed for a year.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].