WARSAW — Now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced theaters will be allowed to reopen Friday if they meet certain conditions, Spotlight Theater of Warsaw says it will be ready to welcome patrons back.
Theaters outside of New York City in areas with COVID-19 infection rates below 2 percent on a 14-day average and which have no cluster zones may reopen at 25 percent capacity, or no more than 50 people per movie screen, Cuomo announced over the weekend.
For theaters to reopen, masks will be required at all times except when seated and eating or drinking, assigned seating will be required in all theaters and social distancing between parties will be required at all times. Additional staffing will be required to control occupancy, traffic and seating to ensure compliance. Enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards must be met by theaters.
Tami Treutlein, who co-owns Spotlight with her husband, Scott, said the theater will only be open from Fridays through Sundays.
“If we’re open more days than that, we’ll lose money being open,” Tami Treutlein said. The times movies will start will be on the Spotlight website by the end of the day today, she said.
What movies will Spotlight have now that it’s prepared to open Friday? “We will have ‘Honest Thief,’ which stars Liam Neeson, and ‘War With Grandpa.’ We’ll have both of those for two weeks,” she said. The third show is a re-release of the cartoon “The Addams Family,” which the theater will only have for this weekend.
Tami said she and Scott found out at the same time as other theater owners that they would be able to open up.
“We found out yesterday (Sunday) that we could open on Friday if we were ready. Our national organization called NATO (National Organization of Theater Owners) has been working with all the theaters across the U.S. and globally,” Tami Treutlein said. “We already had a set of protocols. They started an initiative called CinemaSafe and we had signed on months ago, agreeing to be one of the theaters that followed this CinemaSafe protocol. That was over three months ago.”
Tami said Spotlight will have signage regarding social distancing. The CinemaSafe protocols include all employees being required to where masks or face coverings. Spotlight already had online ticketing, but the theater will only be allowed to sell the number of tickets that match the 25-percent capacity limit.
“It will only allow us to sell every other row and we put two seats in between each group if they’re in the same row,” she said. “If you came in together (as a group), you can sit together.”
Tami Treutlein said Spotlight had to work with its local HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor to put in MERV filters. A MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values) reports a filter’s ability to capture larger particles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Tami said aside from NATO, theater owners had a similar regional/state organization. These organizations advocated for the reopening of theaters, but were eventually joined by the theater owners themselves and customers were also encouraged to get involved, she said.
“I think with Phase 3 and 4 (of the state’s reopening plan) they were being very respectful,” Tami Treutlein said. “When nothing happened after Phase 4, we became more insistent as a group. Our regional theater association would send out a call to action or a social media campaign for all of us to use at the same time.”
The theater organizations, owners and patrons would advocate directly to the governor’s office to allow theaters to reopen. They already had the support of state Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes,R,C-Caledonia, state Sen. Patrick, Gallivan, R-Elma, and Assemblyman David DiPietro, R,C,I-East Aurora.
“They all had written letters on behalf of the theaters in their districts,” Tami Treutlein said. “We felt we had their backing.”
For the Spotlight, the 25-percent capacity means limits of 25 in one of the theaters and 22 or 23 each for the other two.
“We have one auditorium that has 180 (seats) and we have two that have 90,” Tami Treutlein said.
She said while she and Scott were hoping for 50 percent of capacity to be the limit instead of 25 percent, a 25-percent limit wasn’t unexpected. For the last two weeks leading up to this, Spotlight had been taking reservations for private events, such as birthday parties, at the theater.
“The hardest part ... is it reads 25 percent capacity and you need to have extra staff on to help ensure that distancing is happening,” she said. “We’re just hoping that after we‘re open for a couple of months, he’ll (Cuomo) recognize that it is safe and we‘ll be able to increase to 50 percent. We’re just excited to be open at all.”
Tami Treutlein said Spotlight will be able to have the usual number of staff working during a movie.
*(We’ve staggered the movies far enough apart that we don’t have a large group coming in at one time,” she said. “That also means we have to show less movies in a day to day do that.”
Until the restrictions Cuomo announced are eased, Spotlight will only be open Fridays through Sundays, Tami said.
Spotlight is able to reopen Friday because while reopening phases were being rolled out earlier this year, the theater got ready at that time.
“When phases were coming out, we were told we would be in Phase 3, so we got the theater ready for Phase 3 and then they told us ‘Phase 4,’ so we’ve been ready for quite awhile,” Tami said.
Tami said after she and Scott signed on with CinemaSafe, they had a staff meeting, even though the theater weren’t open, to do a training, get questions from the staff and address any concerns the two owners might not have thought of.
“We’ll do that again ahead of opening. We wanted to get an initial training done so that safety was in everybody’s minds,” she said.
“We have eight staff members. Everyone came back except for those people who graduated and went on to college out of the area,” Tami said. “We hired some replacement staff in anticipation of people moving on to college. The only thing that we have to finish up is some renovations that we were working on while we were closed — roof repairs, bathroom remodeling.”
The Daily News was unable to leave a message with Batavia Showtime Theater Monday. A recorded message said the mailbox was full.