Camino Real Cinemas resumes indoor operations
After practically a year of closures, movie lovers can finally see films on the big screen at Camino Real Cinemas in Goleta, instead of streaming them from their couches.
Metropolitan Theatres got the green light to reopen the Goleta location on Friday and the Fiesta Five in Santa Barbara this Wednesday.
Saturday afternoon, families, friends and individuals came to see “Nobody,” an R-rated horror film; the PG-rated animated “Raya and the Last Dragon” and the new “Tom and Jerry” film.
“The first movie of the first day, it was like being reborn,” Chuck McQuary told the News-Press. He and his wife, Dolores, and his wife’s sister, Sandy Grant, all saw the 2:20 p.m. showing of “Nobody” together. Ms. Grant said it was the “best movie I have seen in years.”
“We went out and we were able to sit down, have something to eat and get up and go to a movie,” Mr. McQuary said. “It felt like the old days.”
Face masks are required except while eating or drinking in the auditoriums, which are sanitized between showtimes. The theaters are permitted to operate at 25% capacity, with physical distancing measures, and Camino Real Cinemas launched a new mobile app that allows for reserving seats to ensure social distancing.
Ms. Grant said she hopes that one day, they won’t need to wear masks as they watch the movies. Mr. McQuary said because no one was near their group during the film, he slipped his mask off.
“Life is good,” he said, adding that the group all received their COVID-19 vaccines.
“Our favorite thing to do is go to the movies and go out to eat and this just feels good … This is what life is all about,” Mrs. McQuary told the News-Press. “We’re glad to see things open up and I hope people realize there’s good movies out there. We’re all sick of TV.
“We really encourage people to get out. You get sick of staying home, seeing each other, watching television.”
Mr. McQuary agreed with his wife, laughing and saying, “We really like each other, but it was really put to a test.
“We’ve been over tipping when we go out because we’ve been so thankful for these people to be there and now we don’t have to do the big tips anymore because people are going to have jobs,” he said. “I really felt bad for the people during that time because they were in a bad way. We were so thankful when we found people that were there for us.”
Chuck Huber has lived in the Goleta area since 1987, and told the News-Press he’s always been a big movie lover. He saw the 2 p.m. showing of “Raya and the Last Dragon” on Saturday afternoon, and his review was that it was “really good,” with “beautiful animation” and a “better story.”
“I went to a couple (movies) the last time things opened up again briefly,” he said. “Hopefully, this will be permanent.”
Mr. Huber said he’s gotten so used to wearing a mask that he barely noticed he was wearing it throughout the movie. In addition, he felt comfortable attending a movie indoors because he’s gotten both of his Moderna shots.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some of the big blockbusters on the big screen as opposed to the little screen,” he said. “As somebody who doesn’t have a big family, I see paying for the premium streaming services as way expensive. It’s a good deal for families, but not so much for me.”
The movie lover added that some of his friends are still “leery” of going out, but he thinks as time goes on, seeing a movie will be back in style.
“I’m glad that the Metropolitan Theatres stuck it out and reopened again,” he said.
Alexander Robbins has been working at Camino Real Cinemas for nearly two years, and said he is glad to be back working again.
“I’ve been in my house for so long doing nothing, so being able to come back and do something during my days is great,” the team member told the News-Press Saturday afternoon as he served customers at the concession stand. “I think people have been waiting for it to open, because you don’t get anything like a movie experience like (you do) in a theater.”
He added that he’s very excited to be able to see movies for free again with his employee discount.
The cinema’s spring movie releases include the highly-anticipated “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which will premiere Wednesday; “A Quiet Place 2,” “Peter Rabbit 2,” “Fast and Furious 9” and “Mortal Kombat.”
According to Sal Garcia, the city manager at Camino Real Cinemas, viewer turnout for “Godzilla vs. Kong” has been “fantastic” in other countries, and he hopes the same occurs in Goleta.
“There’s basically no words to describe how it feels to be reopened,” the manager told the News-Press. “I think film is something that we all have been missing. Of course, we have streaming, but it doesn’t beat the movie-going experience.”
He said that with the competition of streaming services, he thinks some of the less popular movies may struggle in the future, but there will always be people wanting to come see the blockbusters.
“I hope that people come back. I hope people feel comfortable to come to the movie theater,” Mr. Garcia said. “We are anxious to have them back.”
Kim Tucker, the vice president of operations, told the News-Press that it’s hard to say how long it will take the theater to recover from almost a year of no revenue, but presales for “Godzilla vs. Kong” are doing fairly well.
“It’s definitely a kind of movie you’d want to see on the big screen,” she said. “I do think there’s some movies that really lend themselves to the big screen. I couldn’t imagine wanting to see a Marvel movie on a small screen.”
Residents who want to reserve a seat can do so on the theater’s website, https://www.metrotheatres.com. They can also purchase tickets at the door at the new contactless kiosk that was installed.
“There’s an environment when you’re sitting in an auditorium with the sound and screen, and I think it’s an environment people want to come back to,” Ms. Tucker said. “I do think that as soon as we get to a higher tier and we can allow more people … I think the industry will start to recover and come together. I strongly feel that people do want to go back to the movies. We’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s a totally safe environment.”