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COVID Reopening: Despite Getting Green Light, South Bay Theaters Stay Shuttered

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- Whether big-name theater chains or smaller independent movie houses, in the South Bay, box offices remain closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The popcorn bins are empty and cold and the movie screens are still dark. Film fans say they miss going out to the movies.

"The atmosphere, getting the popcorn, getting the soda. Going to the theater, watching the movie. It's part of everyday life," said film fan Siamack Shariat.

But seven months into the pandemic, theaters in Santa Clara County are staying
closed, even though they are technically allowed to re-open.

"Neighborhoods will lose movie theatres for the foreseeable future," said
Pruneyard Cinemas manager Dan Orloff.

When the county gave movie theatres a green light to re-open at 25 percent capacity this week, there was another rule in the risk-reduction guidelines that dealt a serious blow to the bottom line of any theater.

The guidelines read, "Food and drink may not be served at indoor gatherings, including at movie theatres, except as necessary to carry out a religious ceremony."

That means no popcorn, candy or drinks. To make matters worse, the major movie studios held back their 2020 blockbusters until next year so they won't lose money.

"So we have no product to show, we have no food and beverage, popcorn to sell. And on top of that, we are limited to 25 percent capacity. It virtually is
tantamount to shutting us down," said Orloff.

The Pruneyard Cinemas is surviving only by serving food and drinks on the patio in front of the theater and running virtual programming that can be streamed at home.

But Orloff says it is not a long-term solution. He did say that film fans can help theaters during this dire period.

"Support your local businesses. We're doing everything we can to stay relevant and alive," Orloff said.

The question is, can theatres survive to see another tier?

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