After three months without being able to provide the cinematic experience, local movie theaters are slated to reopen soon.
Drive-ins got the green light to open May 11, and Gov. Chris Sununu recently announced that indoor movie theaters would be allowed to do so June 29. But the state hasn’t released specific guidelines for what safety measures they’ll have to implement.
“The final guidance documents are not finalized. But we continue to work on them with confidence that we can meet a June 29 deadline,” he said of guidelines for movie theaters, performing arts centers and amusement parks during a news conference June 11.
Peterborough Community Theatre on School Street is opening its doors July 1, according to owner Vanessa Amsbury-Bonilla.
The theater will be showing “mystery” movies until July 17, assigning different genres to the days of the week but keeping the film titles a surprise.
Amsbury-Bonilla said that during those two weeks, admission will be free, but donations will be accepted, and concessions — now behind a Plexiglass barrier — will be available for purchase.
Masks will be encouraged for all patrons, but once the theater starts showing new releases again, she said, all Sunday showings will require masks for everyone, to accommodate those who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or are just otherwise uneasy being in bigger crowds.
No concessions will be available Sundays, Amsbury-Bonilla added, to limit person-to-person contact.
The theater will be open Wednesday through Sunday, with 7 p.m. showings every day. Matinee movies, starting at 2:30 p.m., will be screened on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The Sunday mask requirement is “just to have one day where they have this option of knowing everyone is wearing a mask in there, no exceptions,” she said.
The theater will be operating at up to 50 percent capacity — or 45 people per showing — and Amsbury-Bonilla said groups will be spaced out by at least three chairs.
In between showings, she said, all armrests will be wiped down, as well as door knobs, bathrooms and other frequently touched surfaces.
And when people leave after a movie, all three exits will be propped open to avoid bottlenecks.
The air conditioning will also be turned off during the movie because viruses tend to thrive in drier environments. If it’s a hot day, Amsbury-Bonilla said, the theater will be cooled down ahead of time.
“We’re just playing it one day at a time,” she said. “Once we get a vaccine, if that happens, things will be able to relax, but until then, this is going to be the new normal for a while.”
Keene Cinemas 6 will also be opening July 1, according to a post on its Facebook page, screening “classic” throwbacks like “Jurassic Park,” “Back to the Future” and “The Goonies.”
Tickets will be discounted to $5 until the theater on Key Road brings in new releases, the date of which was not noted in the Facebook post.
Details on the theater’s safety protocols for patrons were also not included.
Keene Cinemas 6, the Wilton Town Hall Theatre and The Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro were not reachable for comment Tuesday.
However, the Wilton theater’s website says it will reopen July 3.
The theater is preparing to social distance, have staggered entry times and implement other safety measures, according to the post, which did not provide further specifics on new protocols or showtimes.
The Latchis is opening Friday, with a 7 p.m. showing of “The Wizard of Oz.” In Vermont, indoor movie theaters were allowed to open June 1 but are limited to 25 percent capacity, according to the state’s guidance. Face masks will be required for all patrons, a post on The Latchis’ Facebook page says.
Additionally, the theater has established new cleaning, health and social-distancing protocols for customers and staff, according to a news release from the theater Friday.