After three-month COVID-19 shutdown, movie theater reopens with ‘new normal’

Published 6:16 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2020

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By Lauren Johnson

Troy Continental Cinemas is getting ready to open again this Friday after making changes to the theater to meet the social distancing regulations and keep customers safe.

“Trying to figure out how we go to the movies again and being able to give that to our customers on a safe level as well as trying to financially pull it off has been a challenge,” Chase Taylor said.

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Troy Continental Cinemas was one of the first businesses in the area forced to close during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and is now one of that last ones to reopen.

“The biggest struggle has been going three months without revenue, and going forward, there won’t be any new movies coming out until July 10th,” Taylor said.

Taylor said this has been a unique and unexpected experience. “I think the longest we’ve ever closed in the past was for a couple of days due to hurricanes,” he said.  even then, Taylor never had to shut down the projectors and servers, that is, until COIVID-19. He shut down the whole building and turned everything off.

“It was very odd to shut the theater down for that long period of time, and it was eerie. It was like the life was taken out of the place,” Taylor said.

However, Taylor used the time as an opportunity to complete different tasks in the theater that aren’t easy to do when it’s open. He was able to replace components in the projectors, work on the sound systems, and more.

Reopening means establishing new systems and procedures to enforce social distancing. That includes markings for customers as well as reserved seating. Taylor explained that there are now stickers on the ground to help customers know where to stand to be six feet apart, and hand sanitizer dispensers have been added in the lobby and by the doors.

Employees will wear masks, and employees who handle any type of money will not handle food and vice versa. Customers are also asked to wear masks when entering the building and to wear it until they are seated.

“We’re just trying to do the things that we are told are the best practices and trying to implement it so people feel safe enough to come back to the theater to enjoy popcorn and a movie,” Taylor said.

The theater has also added reserved seating, so when customers are purchasing a ticket, they will also select their seat on a monitor. Once a seat is chosen, the computer will block off the surrounding seats to keep social distancing regulations. The seat row and number will be printed on the customer’s ticket.

Around the country, many movie theaters are starting to open back up for business and are doing similar things as Troy Continental Cinemas. According to Taylor, within the next three weeks most theaters will be open.

During the process of figuring out how the theater could open and successfully carry out these new changes, Taylor had the employees practice dry runs last week.

“It went really well. The point of it was to find the possible problems that we could have that we didn’t think of,” he said. After working out a few complications, Taylor believes they are ready.

The theater has plans to open this weekend on June 19, 20, and 21 with admission being just $5. “We’re going to show some retro movies that we all love and would love to see in theaters again,” Taylor said.

These films include the Back to the Future trilogy, I Still Believe, Jaws, and Trolls World Tour.

Taylor has seen and participated in the rallying support of other local businesses and is appreciative of the Troy community for coming together during this difficult time.

“Hopefully the City of Troy shows us some love and shows us the community support that we really need right now,” Taylor said.