After seven months of darkness, some movie screens in the Seattle area will light up on Friday. Newly revised state coronavirus restrictions are allowing cinemas to reopen at 25% capacity, and while some operators are choosing to remain closed, others are eagerly preparing to resume business — for an audience that may still be deciding whether to return.
“It is a personal choice, and I understand that and I don’t want to minimize the concern that people may have,” said Jeff Brein, managing partner of the local chain Far Away Entertainment. “I think what we can do is what retailers have done, what restaurants have done … and that is to do everything that we can to provide a safe environment.”
Far Away is reopening seven of its eight theaters, including the Admiral in West Seattle and the Varsity in the University District, on Friday. (The eighth, Ocean Shores Cinema, reopened in the summer, as it is in a Phase 3 county.)
Also reopening Friday are 14 multiplexes in the AMC chain across the state, including Pacific Place in downtown Seattle. And Cinemark announced Tuesday that it will reopen its four theaters in the state Friday, including two at Bellevue’s Lincoln Square and multiplexes in Federal Way and Tacoma.
Most of the Seattle area’s locally owned theaters — including SIFF, Majestic Bay, Ark Lodge, Grand Illusion and Northwest Film Forum — have announced that they will not reopen at this time, citing both safety and business concerns. “It’s going to be extremely challenging at 25%,” Brein acknowledged. And some of the chain multiplexes will remain dark: Regal Cinemas has announced a nationwide closure for the foreseeable future.
But Brein said he’s eager to demonstrate to moviegoers that it’s safe to return to cinemas again, and his theaters are reopening after