‘Movie theaters aren’t going away’: Local theaters tackle reopening, discuss rest of year | TheUnion.com

‘Movie theaters aren’t going away’: Local theaters tackle reopening, discuss rest of year

Onyx Theater outreach director Ali Stefancich sits in a seat in one of the theater’s two auditoriums, this one named the “Magic.“ The small, independent Nevada City theater has been taking private party reservations for private showings and will eventually have regular showtimes as coronavirus restrictions ease.
Photo: Elias Funez

Each at its own pace, Nevada City arthouse theater The Onyx and Sierra Theaters’ Del Oro Theatre and Sutton Cinemas, both in Grass Valley, are planning their moves toward normal operations after over a year primarily closed.

According to The Onyx general manager Celine Negrete, the theater at 107 Argall Way is in its second of three stages in reopening.

“Our first stage was the curbside concessions that we offered earlier this year, and now we’re in stage two, which is the private rentals to small groups,” said Negrete.

The Onyx’s current plan is to complete around 40 of these small group screenings, which Negrete said were fully booked within two days of the theater’s announcement offering them, one per day each Thursday through Sunday, ending in early August.

From there, said Negrete, the theater will be hosting limited capacity screenings for the Nevada City Film Festival, set to take place from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2, before moving on to stage three — a general reopening currently planned for Sept. 10.


Azriel LaMarca, vice president of Sierra Cinemas, standing in one of the two newly reopened theaters.
Photo: Elias Funez

Azriel LaMarca, vice president of Sierra Cinemas, said she was “really pleased with how smoothly everything went” on Sierra Theaters’ first days back open.

“I had pretty low expectations as far as attendance, because it’s our first week getting open, but people came out and it was a steady flow of customers,” she said.

Sierra Theaters announced two weeks ago that it would be reopening two of its Grass Valley theaters that Friday in a “soft opening,” a term LaMarca said was meant to reflect the hope that customers be patient with the theaters’ staff, as around 70% of them are new and still “learning the ropes.”

Asked about the company’s third theater, Sierra Cinemas, at 840 E. Main St. in Grass Valley, LaMarca said it will not be opening at this time.

“Suffice it to say it was a tough year and we had to make some tough decisions,” she continued. “And, right now, it’s not possible for us to open at that location.”

“The Magic“ and “The Dream” auditoriums make up the Onyx Theater at 107 Argall Way in Nevada City. The theater is open now on a limited basis with plans on fully reopening by September.
Photo: Elias Funez
Workers at Sutton Cinemas in Grass Valley’s Glenbrook Basin prepare popcorn for movie-goers earlier this month after the Sierra Cinemas chain of theaters reopened.
Photo: Elias Funez


In addition to the confidence lent by the state’s broad reopening across business sectors June 15, said LaMarca, a significant factor in the timing of Sierra Theaters’ reopening was “the return of the main product pipeline.”

“The major movie studios really haven’t been releasing films this whole year, and now, finally, they are starting to do that again, so we have movies to show,” said LaMarca.

Moviegoers are in for a steady flow of new releases at Sierra Theaters this summer, from action movies to “quite a few” titles for children, according to LaMarca.

“It’s … a pretty good, steady flow of films this summer, and then it gets better as the year goes on,” said LaMarca. “And then, by fall and Christmas time, (it) looks really strong for this year.”

“Movie theaters aren’t going away,” said Negrete on the audience she trusts will be there for The Onyx’s eventual general reopening.

“It’s just been a really long road,” said Negrete. By the September reopening the theater is currently aiming for, she noted, it will have been around 18 months since its original closure in March 2020.

“And, it’s still going to be a little bit of time after that before our schedule gets back to seven days a week, three showtimes a day, 365 days a year,” she added. “But, we’re on the road toward it, so we’re pretty happy about that.”

The Onyx in Nevada City is in its second stage — small group screenings — of a three-stage reopening plan, according to general manager Celine Negrete.
Photo: Victoria Penate

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

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