Metropolitan Theatres stocked up on popcorn and hand sanitizer in anticipation of opening its Camino Real (in Goleta) and Fiesta Five (off of State Street) locations. Following a public health announcement moving the county into the red tier, theater staff slotted Friday as reopening day.
Although movie theaters are only allowed to hold 25% occupancy, Metropolitan is charging ahead and opening up in Santa Barbara County. David Corwin, president of Metropolitan Theatres, said he hopes people will come out to daytime showings and increase business to matinees.
To entice patrons into seats, he extended bargain pricing to Sunday through Thursday and offered double points to members.
“It’ll take some people some time, but people have been craving a social experience with other people,” he said.
Vice President of Operations Kim Tucker said during a press walkthrough Monday that she felt the community was ready for this kind of opening.
The Camino Real location offered weekend family packs of popcorn and snacks through food delivery apps and orders over the phone. It helped keep some staff working and allowed customers to get a taste of the theatre.
And now they’re hungry. General manager Crystal St. Germain said she gets lots of texts asking when the theater will reopen.
People have been popping by to check, and the Camino Real Marketplace shopping center is abuzz with business.
“All the surrounding retailers and restaurants rely on each other to bring traffic. The more business there is, the more it benefits everyone,” Mr. Corwin said.
A challenge theaters are facing is delayed film releases. Many movies have been held back, and it’s hard to attract customers with few titles playing.
“For the most part, we’re optimistic for things getting close to back where we were before,” Mr. Corwin said.
Popular titles have been pushed back until November, as large production companies have been hesitant to release films not knowing how they’ll perform.
Ms. Tucker says they’ve been brainstorming movies to show in addition to new releases.
Customers can also pay to have a private showing in the theater. Mr. Corwin said other locations have had great success with it. People usually bring in a DVD. It costs $130 to $185 for a showing with up to 20 people.
“We have flexibility to do those types of things right now,” he said. “We really just want to get back in the habit of people coming.”
The company has also improved its website and added a mobile application. Customers can buy tickets on the app and staff will scan a barcode for contactless ticketing.
When purchasing tickets, viewers choose their seats and the program automatically spaces three seats between parties. Every other row is unavailable as well.
Metropolitan filmed a COVID-19 safety video at the Camino Real location showing the new precautions.
There are many stickers on the floor marking social distancing standards, and hand sanitizer at every station and checkpoint. Guests are also encouraged to exit the theater one row at a time.
Even every other toilet stall is closed.
The standards are governed by the National Association of Theatre Owners and reopening guidelines called Cinema Safe.
Ms. Tucker adhered to those and tried to go beyond expectations. She spent a lot of time this summer researching cleaning techniques like sprays and foggers.
Each seat is disinfected between showings, and patrons are required to wear a mask unless they are sitting and eating a snack.
“We’re pretty confident people will abide by the requirements,” Mr. Corwin said. “We’ll have a staff presence going in and out of auditoriums to make sure it’s enforced.”
But he’s not too worried. Since movie theaters are among the last to open, he figures the public has had enough time to adjust.
Camino Real and Fiesta Five are set to reopen Friday, and showtimes are soon to be posted online. Depending upon the success of these venues, more Metropolitan Theatre locations will reopen in the county.