Movie theaters in the Seattle area have been closed since March, but it may finally be time for some of them to dust off those popcorn machines. Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that cinemas in Phase 2 counties (which includes King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap, among others) may reopen at 25% capacity.
Jeff Brein, managing partner of the local theater chain Far Away Entertainment, said Tuesday that his theaters would reopen on Friday, Oct. 16, after taking time to order films, bring back staff and implement new safety procedures. “We are delighted that the Governor is expressing confidence in our industrywide safety protocols and will be uncompromising in assuring that movie fans will enjoy a safe and enjoyable experience in our theaters,” he said in an email. The Far Away chain includes the Admiral in West Seattle, the Varsity in the University District and several others.
Representatives for the AMC and Cinemark national chains did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But many theaters will likely still remain closed, for reasons involving both safety and the inability to make their business model work at greatly reduced capacity. The national chain Regal Cinema’s parent company Cineworld announced earlier this week that it is temporarily closing all of its U.S. theaters until further notice. Local Regal theaters include the Meridian downtown, Thornton Place in north Seattle, the Alderwood in Lynnwood and others.
Aaron Alhadeff, operator of the Majestic Bay in Ballard, said Tuesday that his theater will not be reopening in the near future. “We are not currently considering opening in an environment where we can only sell 25% of our seats,” he said in an email. “We are aware this is a fluid situation and we will continue to monitor both what we are permitted to do and what product is available to show to our loyal fans and community.” He stressed, though, that the theater will indeed reopen at some point, just not now.
Several locally owned theaters have already announced that they will not reopen until next year; among these are the three SIFF Cinemas (Egyptian, Uptown, and SIFF Film Center) and the Ark Lodge in Columbia City. The owners of Cinerama, which has been closed since before the pandemic, announced in May that it will remain closed “for the foreseeable future.”