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Parkside theater reopens after pandemic closure

June 25, 2020 - 06:00
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    Plastic shields are in place at every cash register inside Parkside Main 8 Theatre at Lake Oconee. PHOTO: Justin Hubbard


Lake Country’s movie theater is finally open again.

Parkside Main 8 Theatre began a phased reopening last weekend, beginning Friday, June 19, and running through Monday, June 22. The theater will be closed this week until it runs the same schedule this coming weekend.

During the soft reopening, the theater’s hours are 4-8 p.m.

Talks of reopening Parkside began earlier this month, according to general manager Chris Nutting. The theater shut down March 23 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Parkside is not yet back to its full schedule, Nutting said he and the theater’s owners wanted to get the theater back in a groove in preparation for what they hope will be a busy time in July.

“We were hoping that new movies would start coming out July Fourth weekend. I'm not sure if that's actually gonna happen now,” Nutting said. “We were just hoping to do a couple weekends before that, do a dry run to kind of get a feel for who wants to come out and who's coming out. Get our feet wet again because it's been so long.”

For now, the theater is showing a handful of older movies. Last week’s lineup included The Lego Batman Movie, Jumanji: The Next Level and Bad Boys for Life. Jumanji and Bad Boys were still showing in Parkside when it closed in March.

On Tuesday, the Parkside Facebook page indicated that The Dark Knight Rises, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse and I Still Believe will be in the lineup this weekend.

Nutting said the theater has to go through a booking agent to get hard drives or “digital keys” for movies. As such, it was a challenge to get the full lineup ready ahead of last Friday.

“It's a process,” Nutting said. “It was definitely a scramble to get everything ready at the final hour.”

Earlier this week, Nutting was working to try and bring in other films. One movie he would like to bring back for a short period is American Sniper.

Parkside will open the next few weekends with the same setup as last week. During that time, Nutting said frontline workers will receive special perks as a thank you for their service these last few months.

“We wanted to give back to the community,” Nutting said. “That's why, all through this month, we're offering free tickets and popcorn for medical first responders, grocers, people in F&B, hotels, restaurants – anybody who was really hard-hit by COVID-19.”

The theater is employing numerous health and safety measures for the foreseeable future.

Each auditorium is only being sold to 33 percent capacity. Additionally, the seating in the auditoriums is staggered. The theater blocked off every other row in an effort to keep customers seated at a distance from others.

Hand sanitizer is available at the door of each auditorium near the trash cans and throughout the lobby. Parkside employees are wearing masks and gloves and they regularly wash their hands. There are sneeze guards placed at every cash register, too.

Nutting said those measures are in place to keep employees and customers safe. Theater employees are also regularly disinfecting each auditorium.

“We're doing lots of cleaning,” Nutting said. “We use a lemon disinfectant, which kills any viruses. Also, in between showtimes, we have chemical sprayers that we fill with disinfectant. We're going through every seat and spraying them downstairs. Upstairs, we wipe it down with disinfectant since it's leather seating. We're trying to run a really tight ship.”

For now, customers are not required to wear masks when inside the theater. Nutting said that policy could change in the future, though, but he hopes that will not be the case.

The theater began advertising its reopening a few weeks ago. Nutting said the first few crowds were not as big as he hoped but the evening shows drew in solid numbers of people.

“It wasn't as good a turnout as I hoped but, especially for the later shows, it was a nice turnout,” Nutting said.

Parkside will be open Fridays through Mondays at least through June. Nutting said he is not sure what the hours of operation will be for July.

No matter what comes next for Parkside, Nutting said he hopes the theater allows Lake Country’s residents a chance to enjoy a more normal experience for the first time in three months.

“I think it's really just important for a sense of normalcy,” he said. “I think a lot of people are stir crazy and they want to get out and have a good time and do something. We just want to bring things back to the way they were, as much as possible.”