Update, 3/12/20, 3:30 p.m.: The Majestic Bay in Ballard is temporarily closing. Operator Aaron Alhadeff said, in an email, “We have loved bringing people together in Ballard for almost 20 years, but for this moment in time the best thing our family can do is to help make sure public gatherings don’t happen.”
Update, 3/12/20, 8:30 a.m.: The Grand Illusion, in the University District, has announced that it will temporarily close its doors beginning March 16. The theater, an all-volunteer organization, notes on its website that the closure is “to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” and that it hopes to reopen in April.
Thinking of escaping the constant flow of novel coronavirus news by going to the movies? As of Tuesday, all Seattle-area cinemas are open (except for Cinerama, which has been closed for some weeks for an announced renovation) and seems likely to remain so, barring any announcements to the contrary by public health officials. But it’s not quite business as usual. Local theaters are upping their sanitation procedures and urging their staff and patrons to practice good hygiene — frequent hand-washing/sanitizing, stay home if you are ill. And some are taking additional measures, described below.
Ark Lodge Cinemas: To help patrons practice “social distancing,” the Ark Lodge is only selling 50% of available seats in each of its four screens, so that moviegoers can spread out. The theater is also reducing the number of screenings per day.
Far Away Entertainment (Admiral, Varsity, Bainbridge Cinemas and other community theaters): Jeff Brein, managing partner for the small local chain Far Away, noted that this is a quiet time of year for movies and that patrons at his theaters have found plenty of room. “Ours is a business where frequent daily cleaning is part of our DNA,” he said, “so expanding it to focus better on cleaning surfaces and increased hygiene is not that difficult for us.” Starting Thursday, ticketing for all shows in all auditoriums (most of which are well under 250 capacity) will be capped at 50%.
Majestic Bay: The Ballard theater will go from four to five showtimes a day per film to two to three; operator Aaron Alhadeff said this is the theater’s first reduction in hours since 9/11. It is making disinfectant wipes available for patrons who wish to wipe down their seats as an extra precaution, and is encouraging credit-card purchases (cash purchases will now involve an extra sanitation procedure).
Northwest Film Forum: NWFF canceled the last few days of the Children’s Film Festival, and will postpone any CFF-related school field-trip screenings through March 18. All other events will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
SIFF (Uptown, Egyptian, SIFF Film Center): SIFF is capping ticket sales at each screening this week at 50%, to give patrons extra room, and has, according to its website, “increased signage and messaging to promote healthy hygiene habits.”
It’s also worth noting, for those considering venturing out, that reserved-seat theaters offer the opportunity to choose a seat away from others. And, as the situation is changing rapidly, be sure to check with the theater before heading out.