Movie theaters are slowly reopening in some corners of the Bay Area, as some counties move into a less restrictive tier of California's COVID-19 business reopening plan.
In Napa County, the Century Napa Valley and XD opened its doors again on Sept. 11 after more than six months in the dark.
“We had some really avid moviegoers who were excited to be off the couch and back in the theater,” said Chanda Brashears, vice president of investor and public relations at Cinemark, which owns the Napa movie house and more than 25 others in the nine county Bay Area.
Further up the Napa Valley, the independently owned Cameo Cinema in St. Helena is preparing to open Friday. The single-screen theater will have, among other safety measures in place, limited seating and one show daily instead of the three it featured before the pandemic.
The Cameo and the 12-screen Century were permitted to open because Napa County — based on metrics measuring the spread of COVID-19 — moved into the red level, the third most restrictive of four color-coded tiers that govern which businesses can reopen and under what restrictions.
Movie theaters in those red-level counties are allowed to open but can only fill their auditoriums to 25% capacity, or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Other health safety protocols that Cinemark has put into place include automatic distancing: Once tickets are purchased, two seats immediately to the left and right are blocked from sale, and unless the theater has reclining seats, tickets are sold only in every other row.
Additionally, face masks will be required for all moviegoers and employees, and auditoriums are sanitized after each show, among other safety measures.
In Marin County, which state health officials this week moved from purple, the most restrictive tier, to red, Cinemark plans to reopen its San Rafael Northgate 15 on Friday, said it would soon also reopen theaters in Larkspur, Novato and Mill Valley.
The six-screen Fairfax Theatre in Fairfax, owned by Petaluma-based Cinema West will also open Friday.
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, though, San Francisco and Santa Clara, the only other regional counties to have moved from purple to red, are maintaining their own tighter restrictions and prohibiting movie theaters from opening.
— Jeremy Hay, Bay City News