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Reg Lenna Prepared For Return Of Moviegoers

From left, County Executive PJ Wendel, State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Reg Lenna Director of Marketing and Communication Len Barry tour the lobby of the Reg Lenna Center for The Arts while discussing how guests may return this fall. P-J photo by Jay Young

The Reg Lenna Center for The Arts has taken the necessary precautions to welcome guests back to the movies as soon as New York state approves theaters to reopen.

Director of Marketing and Communication Len Barry, Executive Director Hillary Meyer and Board President Maria Kindberg welcomed local leaders to the theater on Friday morning for an overview of the changes made since COVID-19.

County Executive PJ Wendel, State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay and Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist joined the tour and shared recent information on when movie theaters may be permitted to reopen.

“The announcement will come and then the guidance will be shortly thereafter,” Wendel said.

“We have not heard anything. I think this latest uptick has really kind of just put some brakes on a little bit of things for a while.”

From left, Mayor Eddie Sundquist, State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, County Executive PJ Wendel and Reg Lenna Director of Marketing and Communication Len Barry discuss movie theater openings near the stage of the Reg Lenna Center for The Arts. P-J photo by Jay Young

It remains to be seen if reopening will take a regional approach, and what performance venues will be permitted to host certain events.

“We are continuing to push for the regional approach,” Borrello said. “I think people are more ready here than they are on other parts of the state. I don’t think people are dying to go into movie theaters in New York City right now, but I think people would show up here tomorrow if you were open.”

Reg Lenna staff expect a quick turnaround to showing films again once the state eases pandemic restrictions, and is hopeful that positive news could be coming shortly.

“We are shooting maybe for later this month, we can turn things around in about a week once we get an announcement, to show movies again,” Barry said. “We are all in this together. None of us has ever encountered anything like this before in out lifetimes. So we are all learning as we go along. We are learning best practices from other people, from other states.”

Upon entering the theater, guests will have their temperature taken, will social distance and wear masks as they make their way to their seats. Capacity has been reduced from 1,100 to approximately 300, and groups of seats have been taped off and separated.

Hand sanitizing stations can now be found throughout the theater, and surfaces will be sanitized after events.

“Our balcony is open because in order to get to that (expected) 25% capacity for movies, which would get us about 300 patrons in here, we need to have everything open,” Barry said. “As much preparation as we can do, the audience member and the patron is going to test everything out. Their behaviors, their desires and needs and demands are going to shape what we are going to do.”

Live performances such as plays and musicals may have different requirements to resume than film screenings, and seven such events are currently on the Reg Lenna schedule for 2021.

Sundquist noted that live music including singing performances can present a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission through the air, and can require a doubling of the social distancing size from 6 to 12 feet.

When the theater is permitted to show films again, Barry said that the Reg Lenna may add a third movie night per week in addition to the standard Wednesday and Saturday showings.

With Hollywood studios and national theater chains still uncertain about the future of film distribution during a pandemic, local theaters may present an important outlet.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

When moviegoers do get the opportunity to return to the Reg Lenna, that should provide a welcome increase of other business to the downtown area.

Full Moon Rising Bakery, which is connected to the theater, is hoping that reopening is announced sooner rather than later.

“I think it will be great once the theater opens up, as long as people feel comfortable going out,” owner Andrea Latona said. “I’m sure it will start slow, but I think people are ready to at least try getting out. I’m hopeful that will have a big impact.”

Latona said that as more businesses are able to open downtown, the increased foot traffic is likely to help everyone out.

“We need other businesses open down here too, unfortunately they aren’t going to come down just for us,” she said. “We are connected right to the Reg. We have doors that open right into their box office. With them not being open and not having movies we have definitely suffered. We used to stay open late when they would have late night movies and do all kinds of fun stuff.”

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