The curtain has been raised, so to speak, again at Brattleboro’s downtown landmark. The Latchis Theatre has reopened after a more than three-month shutdown due to the pandemic, although operations are scaled back, of course.
According to Jon Potter, executive director of the theater, after the mandate stating theaters could open doors at a limited capacity, two more weeks were spent finishing a project to refurbish the theater lobby with a fresh coat of paint as well as new lighting meant to highlight the Greco Deco building’s historic details.
The grand reopening was June 19 with the first showing of “The Wizard of Oz,” also shown on the Latchis screen when the theater was less than a year old.
“The film has taken on extra resonance in these times, and it was why we chose it for our grand re-opening,” Potter said. He explained the film is about overcoming challenges and learning the power to tackle them is within us. It’s also about the idea of home.
“Personally,” he said, “when I think of home, my thoughts extend beyond the four walls of my dwelling to embrace my whole community.”
While the theater seats 750 people, the current capacity is 75, which means primarily film showings are on the schedule in the main theatre only (the building has four). This way, patrons are able to properly socially-distance themselves from each other inside the theater. Local regulation requires face masks be worn in the lobby and restroom areas; the theater will provide masks for those who need them. The theater also adopted extra cleaning measures, and hand sanitizer is available throughout the building.
Going forward, it’s a situation that needs to be monitored closely.
“We’ll see. We don’t know the audience comfort level,” Potter said. “We’ve heard lots of warm wishes via social media and gotten phone calls of congratulations and wishing us luck on reopening. Although some are not comfortable coming back to public spaces yet, they support us. We embrace the community’s feeling on comfort level.”
On the schedule next are showings of “Casablanca” this weekend and “Selma” in July. The selections were partly chosen as a result of collecting audience surveys.
“There’s nothing new coming out of Hollywood right now,” Potter said, referring to delayed filming schedules due to the pandemic. “We’re pleased to have wide open canvas to play on as far as programming films.”
He added that summer blockbuster film screenings should resume in late July.
Continuing now is the Latchis at Home series — on-demand films through the Latchis distributor that are available for rental ($12 for five days) from the theater’s website. The series began after the start of the pandemic.
“It was a chance for us to continue as a movie house for regular patrons,” Potter said. “We put up an interesting mix of indie and dramatic films that maybe wouldn’t get theatrical attention. It’s just as important to continue to be a purveyor of movie content.”
He went on to say that he is intrigued about continuing this series as a way to test certain kinds of content before a cinematic showing and establishing relationships with distributors.
A standout in the at-home lineup for Potter is “Crescendo,” a fictional story about joining a youth orchestra consisting of young Arab and Israeli musicians.
“It’s about music and preconceived notions,” Potter said.
While federal funding received from the Small Business Association has kept the non-profit theater operating, Potter will soon announce the launch of a fundraising campaign open to the theater’s supporters.
“We’ve had support from donors who recognized where we’re at and decided to help us,” he said. The community is focused on getting everyone through this together, however it looks. We feel the love and support.”
The Latchis Theatre will continue to be open Fridays through Sundays. For more information, visit latchistheatre.com.