Art house returns: The Onyx to open again for screenings, private rentals in October | TheUnion.com
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Art house returns: The Onyx to open again for screenings, private rentals in October

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector

It was the decision by a half dozen performing organizations to require proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend events at their venue, which paved the way for smaller stages and art houses to reopen in a safe manner. After an 18-month closure, one of those venues, The Onyx, is set to reopen on Friday, Oct. 1, with private rentals and limited seating. General admission screenings are set to open a week later.

Onyx General Manager Celine Negrete explained The Onyx is an art house as opposed to a mainstream, larger theater. “Art houses show independent, foreign language, documentary … while mainstream refers to the main Hollywood studios like Disney, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, the ones that show the Hollywood films. Art houses tend to be smaller because they are showing films that don’t have that Hollywood dollar behind them.” Admittedly, there are some cross over films that show in both types of venues.

There has been an art house theater in the Nevada City area for over twenty-five years. The Onyx is a continuation of The Magic Theatre under a new name. An extensive remodel completed in 2018 doubled capacity, offering two separate screens, each with under 30 seats. The Magic is now the name of one of the screening rooms. According to Negrete, the theater remains a local mainstay because the owner loves independent film.



“Jeff Clark bought The Magic back in 2001, because he didn’t want it to close. And he’s a lover of art film and really felt that it was important that Nevada City continue to have an art house movie theater here. It’s actually kind of rare for a small, rural town of our size to have its own art house theater. It’s here because Jeff is committed to having this available to the residents in Nevada City and Grass Valley. He is really the reason why it’s here.”

People seem to love the intimate experience of the small house, which comes with a stellar snack bar that carries wine, beer, organic popcorn and real butter! Patrons must be 21 years of age to attend.



While trying to find a way to reopen, management decided to offer private rentals earlier this year which was hugely popular. “Within 48 hours of announcing our first round of private rentals, we had twice as many responses as we had rentals available,” Negrete explained. “Other art houses had been shifting to private rentals for the past year and a half as a way to have some income stream, even though they couldn’t be fully open, and we finally found the time and we have the staff to do that so that is when we gave that a try.”

Given the popularity of the private rentals, the staff is dedicating one screen three times a day, seven days a week for $100 with a limit of eight patrons per rental. “We’ll have ten films to choose from,” Negrete said of the rental. The new options will be listed on their website where people can reserve the space and select their movie.

Safety protocols will be in place, with capacity at one third in both the private and public theaters. “We will be requiring proof of vaccinations for the public screenings and the private rentals will require proof of vaccination or a negative test in the past 48 hours. We added the option of a negative test so that people who are not vaccinated, for whatever reason, still had an option to be able to come and see a movie.” Adding public safety is a primary concern, the private rentals have the secondary option because those renting the space are with people they (presumably) know. “In the private rentals, you are choosing to be with these people, but in the general screenings, it is different. You are sitting with strangers, and we want to be able to attest that everybody in that room with you has shown they are fully vaccinated.” All staff will be masked, and patrons will be required to wear masks unless actively eating or drinking.

Limiting the audience to just nine patrons at a time is certainly not a cash-positive model, but Negrete said they are simply happy to be able to see people enjoying the theater again. “We have been closed for 18 months, other than that little bit of private rentals. We needed a way to start moving forward. Honestly, it was the announcement from the six live venues requiring vaccination that gave us an option to be able to be open. It cost more to be open than closed but we had to get going. We appreciated them coming out and taking that position. It allowed us to feel more comfortable following those protocols.”

Management of the theater polled patrons about what safety measures they were most interested in if they were to reopen and masks were at the top of the list, along with only fully vaccinated people at screenings. Patrons of The Onyx tend to be older and at higher risk and so the protocols were put in place as a safety measure.

Management will look at protocols on a month-to-month basis. Negrete said, they will see how it goes, stating, they are simply happy to be able to reopen, even in this limited way. She concluded, staff has missed interacting with the public. “Clearly it’s the people coming in (that we miss). The interactions that happen after the films where people want to talk to us about what they just saw. I love film so being able to have this place where people can come and be moved or touched and then share their excitement or emotion with us in that space is something all of us at the theater really miss.”

For a list of movies and private rental availability as well as the upcoming public offering, go to http://www.theonyxtheatre.com.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com

MORE INFO

For a list of movies and private rental availability as well as the upcoming public offering, go to http://www.theonyxtheatre.com.

ON THE COVER

The photo featured on the cover of this edition of Prospector was taken by Kat Alves Photography.

After an 18-month closure, one of those venues, The Onyx, is set to reopen on Friday, Oct. 1, with private rentals and limited seating. General admission screenings are set to open a week later.
Photo by Kat Alves Photography
Given the popularity of the private rentals, the staff is dedicating one screen three times a day, seven days a week for $100 with a limit of eight patrons per rental.
Photo by Kat Alves Photography
For a list of movies and private rental availability as well as the upcoming public offering, go to http://www.theonyxtheatre.com.
Photo by Kat Alves Photography

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