NORTH BEND, Wash — Movie theaters are slowly reopening in Washington state after Gov. Jay Inslee announced new “Safe Start” reopening plans last week that allow theaters in counties in Phase 2 to open at 25% capacity and Phase 3 at 50%.
Some national chains like AMC opened all 14 locations in Washington state Friday, and many of the smaller independently owned cinemas are on a case by case basis.
The historic North Bend Theatre has operated under the same roof since 1941, and although it’s changed ownership, it has always been a movie house and a community favorite.
Owner Beth Burrows is cautiously optimistic about inviting customers back inside after many months of offering concessions to go.
“For us, 25% capacity means 66 people, and that’s still a really great night for us,” Burrows said.
Burrows has owned the theatre since 2018 and feels a sense a duty to survive the closure, not just because the theatre is historic but because of the community impact.
“It has been here for almost 80 years,” Burrows said. “It’s seen sickness, it’s seen wars, it’s been through economic downturns, but it’s always been here.”
Every other row in the theatre is roped off with fun Star Wars-themed signs saying familiar Storm Trooper slogans like, “These are not the seats you’re looking for,” and, “Move along.”
The smell of fresh popcorn is nostalgic, and manager Skyler Possert said he’s anxious to see people again and to be able be able to serve them concessions in person again. He even sang the familiar “Let’s all go to the lobby” jingle that moviegoers first started seeing in 1957.
North Bend Theatre is in Halloween mode showing movies like “Hocus Pocus” and “Nightmare Before Christmas.”
The staff is also wearing new pins they created to honor the 80 independent historic movie houses in Washington state.
“These are independent theaters in your community that need your support,” Burrows said.