Ever since the early 1900s, going to the movies has been a favorite American pastime. Whether rolling up to the giant projector at a drive-in, lounging on a reclining leather seat, or squeezing into an overcrowded midnight premiere, people have enjoyed movies as a blissful escape from reality.
The realities of COVID-19 interrupted this pastime and shut down big screens across the country in early March, leaving local and chain theaters in a lurch. With Phase 2 of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s reopening plan, movie theaters in Corvallis have been permitted to open — with certain stipulations — though not all theaters have decided to do so.
The two chain movie theaters in Corvallis, AMC Classic and the Regal Ninth Street Cinemas, have varying timelines for re-opening. AMC Classis is already open for movie showings at a 40 percent capacity. While Regal Ninth Street Cinemas is not yet open, it should follow its many other locations in opening soon.
Both theaters offer online payment and concession ordering and require face masks anywhere inside the theater, except when eating or drinking.
AMC Classic’s current line-up includes a few new releases, such as Tenet, Unhinged, and the New Mutants, as well as a few familiar films such as Dirty Dancing. Regal will similarly be showing new releases and a selection of classic movies.
“Reopening plans include a wide range of new health and safety measures that adhere to the latest CDC and public health guidelines, including innovative sanitization procedures, new social distancing protocols, and mandatory mask policies for Regal employees and guests,” Regal’s VP of communications Richard Grover wrote in a statement.
Local indie movie theater, Darkside Cinema, has opted to postpone its big-screen showings.
“Our rooms are so small. There is no safe and profitable way to open. Rather than burning through our savings to just be open, we’ll wait until we can do it in earnest and stay open,” said Paul Turner, a very important person – or as he says it “Le Grand Fromage” – of Darkside Cinema.
Darkside, known for its alternative film showings, has still found a way to share films, though not in-person. Customers can stream indie classics through the theater’s website.
“We are a gateway for streaming movies you won’t find on most other platforms, movies consistent with what the Darkside does. For 25 years we’ve been bringing the best films you will not see anywhere else, and we are still doing that through COVID,” Turner said. And, soon, families and those quarantined together will be permitted to view a movie in-person.
Of course, one of the main reasons people visit the movie theater is for the irreplaceable taste of movie theater popcorn. So Darkside is selling its popcorn to go, along with sodas and other snacks, so customers enjoy the familiar taste associated with a night at the movies.
While snack sales and movie rentals have been instrumental in keeping the theater afloat, Turner credits Darkside’s survival to community support and his loyal staff.
“Seriously, the donations are still coming in. I admit to getting a little emotional when someone sends in $5 because that’s all they can afford and want us to know what we mean to their community,” Turner said. “Our staff has been the main reason we will be reopening. They have been going above and beyond to keep the Darkside furnace burning.”
For now, Darkside is working on making the theater as safe as possible and waiting until they can open again.
By Jessica Goddard