Local theaters at different stages in planning, reopening | TheUnion.com

Local theaters at different stages in planning, reopening

Sierra Theaters, whose three Grass Valley locations have been closed since July, is working toward a mid-October reopening at the Del Oro Theatre on Mill Street.

Nevada County has moved from the “substantial” to “moderate” tier of COVID-19 risk per statewide guidelines, which took theaters from a 25% permitted capacity to 50%.

“It definitely had a big impact on our decision (to reopen),” Sierra Theaters manager Azriel LaMarca said.

She said their fixed costs would have made it more expensive to reopen at 25% capacity than to stay closed, and that there is more certainty now that, upon reopening, they will be able to stay open.

“This tier means that, if the cases start to go up again for some reason and we go back down a tier … then we’re back to 25%, rather than back down to closed,” said LaMarca.

Concerning the factors still left to work out by mid-month, she said there are “a lot of pieces to the puzzle”, including getting contactless payment systems up and running, organizing staffing, booking movies to screen, and deep cleaning the theater.

Upon reopening, they will be using a seat reservation system and encouraging patrons to make their reservations prior to arriving, although they will be able to purchase tickets at the door if there is availability. LaMarca said this system will both serve to eliminate face-to-face interaction and facilitate the logistics of distancing parties while seated, because the system will automatically make the seats surrounding a party unavailable.

In accordance with state health guidelines, as well as guidance from the National Association of Theater Owners’ CinemaSafe program, masks will be required when entering the theater and when moving around within it. Concessions, a major part of the theater’s revenue, will be sold. Patrons will be able to remove masks to eat and drink at their seats, but will be asked to wear a mask when not doing so.


While The Onyx will not be opening for movie screenings until a significant shift in COVID-19 risk, according to general manager Celine Negrete, the theater plans to open an online store in early November.

Through the online store, customers will be able to pre-order concessions to be picked up during weekly curbside hours at The Onyx.

“We’re creating a number of types of packages,” Negrete said, adding that the theater’s organic popcorn with a variety of seasoning options was a popular item while the theater was open. “There were certain seasonings that were favorites of our patrons, and we’ll have them be able to recreate what they had at The Onyx in the past.”

She said some moviegoers at The Onyx enjoyed the unique wine and beer selection, curated by wine consultant John Seeger Gilman, and would previously be disappointed to find some of these wines were not available by the bottle locally. The theater still has some of these in their inventory, and bottles of wine and beer will be available for pre-order and curbside pickup.

The Onyx merchandise, such as branded wine glasses, water bottles, and coffee thermoses, will also be available through the online store, and staff are in the process of planning more artistic projects such as a staff-created magazine and a community movie poster contest.

“We’re just looking at it as an opportunity to come up with creative ideas,” said Negrete.

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.

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