How Portland’s Movie Theaters Are Responding to Coronavirus

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A Quiet Place Part II

A Quiet Place Part II JONNY COURNOYER

NOTE: This story will be updated as we continue to hear back from Portland-area theaters. If you’re unsure if a specific screening or event has been canceled, contact the theater.

On Wednesday March 11, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Kate Brown announced what will be at least a four-week-long ban on public gatherings of 250 or more people. In addition to many music venues, event spaces, and other gathering places, the ban will affect nearly every movie theater in Portland, regardless of if those theaters show big Hollywood releases, small independent pictures, or both.

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Austin, TX duo Jamestown Revival at the Aladdin Theater on March 12th

Hollywood Theatre

“We are capping the main auditorium at 250 for all events for the next four weeks,” Joe Bolenbaugh, marketing manager at the Hollywood Theatre, tells the Mercury. “We have some sold-out shows already, so we are contacting ticket holders individually about our plans for each of those.”

Northwest Film Center & Portland International Film Festival

December Carson, marketing and community relations coordinator for the Northwest Film Center, says that for Thursday, March 12, all screenings for the Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) have been canceled.

According to a posting from the Portland Art Museum (PAM) on March 12, all PIFF programming is canceled through Sunday, March 15. That date was scheduled to be the final day of the festival, so these cancellations bring an abrupt and early end to 2020’s PIFF.

“Ticket purchasers [for] PIFF 43 screenings that have been canceled who wish to receive a refund can contact the box office at 503-276-4310 or email ato@nwfilm.org, 12-6 pm daily,” PAM notes. “We are also offering two free vouchers for regularly priced film screenings at the Whitsell Auditorium in place of a refund. PIFF 43 pass holders may exchange their pass for a year’s membership to the Northwest Film Center.”

Laurelhurst Theater

“We are going to be limiting our ticket sales for each auditorium,” says the Laurelhurst’s Prescott Allen. “Each auditorium will be limited to half of their current capacity. This will ensure that we do not have more than 250 people, and it will also help to give people additional space between themselves and other customers in the auditorium.”

Regal Cinemas

“As the situation surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, we are prepared to respond and ensure that we’re monitoring and following official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with other health officials,” reads an email sent to the Mercury by the customer service department of Regal Cinemas, a chain based in Knoxville, Tennessee that has a number of Portland-area locations. The email went on to list steps being taken at all Regal locations:

· Educating our staff on prevention
· Emphasizing frequent and proper handwashing
· Cleaning high-contact points more frequently
· Providing hand sanitizing soap in all restrooms
· Partnering with local health authorities

Regal adds that they’re “working closely with our employees who have traveled to the affected areas or have been in contact with someone who may have been exposed. In these cases, we are following the public health recommendation and requesting home isolation for 14 days.” “We continue,” the email concludes, “to welcome moviegoers into all our theaters.”

Cinema 21

“We’re following the local health authority’s guidelines, as they evolve,” says Cinema 21’s Tom Ranieri. “Presently we are limiting ticket sales for any one show to 250. We plan to operate as usual with that restriction.” Ranieri noted that a screening set for Thursday March 19—Terror & Hope, which Ranieri says “was filmed in Syria by local director Ron Bourke”—had been canceled. “I was looking forward to that one,” Ranieri says. “I believe that they will attempt to reschedule after things settle back to more normal activity.”

Academy Theater

“We at the Academy Theater are monitoring the CDC and Oregon Health Authority daily for the latest updates as they become available,” reads an official statement from the theater. “Beginning the first week in March we instituted more frequent and more stringent cleaning policies.” Those policies include:

· Frequently spraying and/or wiping down surfaces that are regularly touched by the public and staff with CDC suggested disinfectants, between and during all screenings, and at the end of the day. These surfaces include the concession counter, self-serve water station, condiment counter, lobby tables and chairs, door handles and push plates, sinks, toilet handles and seats.
· Providing hand sanitizer at the concessions counter for our customers.
· Making sure employees wash their hands frequently, cover their cough or sneeze, and not touch their face. Additionally, all sick staff members (especially those with symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath) are required to stay at home.

The Academy’s asking all their customers to follow those guidelines as well, and is “maximizing ticket sales to 50% of each auditorium’s capacity so that viewers will have room to employ safe social distancing.” None of the Academy’s auditoriums can seat over 130 people, the statement notes, “so we will be well within the Oregon’s maximum gathering capacity requirement of 250.” The Academy is also reducing the number of showtimes to enable more cleaning between shows, suspending the use of water fountains, and “temporarily suspending child care services.”

Living Room Theaters

“We have implemented enhanced sanitation procedures as well as added additional time between shows to allow for additional cleaning in the theaters,” reads a Living Room Theaters’ email newsletter sent on Thursday, March 12. “If you are feeling sick, please call us for a refund on your ticket(s) and stay home. If you have purchased tickets and don’t feel comfortable coming to the theater, call us in advance of your movie showtime to get a refund. We’ll post updates on our website and social media accounts. Please be cautious and follow the recommendations of local officials.”

Clinton Street Theater

“We believe that as long as there are no public advisories against it, the choice to come to CST or to patronize other small businesses trying to survive this crisis is a personal health choice akin to many others we make on a daily basis,” reads a notice posted by the Clinton Street Theater, which also notes that, among other precautions, the theater is “lowering the total number of seats sold for any show by 50 to allow extra space between patrons.” (Owner Lani Jo Leigh also tells the Mercury that, after leaving empty handed from visits to Costco and Cash & Carry this morning for toilet paper for the theater, the Clinton is “offering $1 off concessions for any customer who brings in a roll.”)

“As Portland’s oldest continually running theater, CST has weathered the Spanish Flu, polio, and other communicable disease epidemics, the Great Depression, and far too many wars,” the Clinton Street Theater’s notice continues. “We look forward to outlasting our current challenges.”

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Regardless of individual theaters’ policies, film studios and distributors are adjusting their plans. So far, the national releases of three major motion pictures have been delayed: A Quiet Place Part II, which was scheduled to open March 20, has been indefinitely delayed; F9, the next Fast & Furious film, had its premiere moved from this May to April 2021; and the new James Bond movie, the unfortunately titled No Time to Die, was moved from April to November. More films and film-related events will almost certainly be delayed or canceled in the coming weeks.

We’ve reached out to numerous Portland movie theaters, and we’ll update this post as more information comes in. Theater owners and managers can contact us at film@portlandmercury.com.