Local theaters slash seating capacity, shut down or postpone screenings

Credit: Photo: Amelia Robinson

Credit: Photo: Amelia Robinson

The number of seats available per screening has been drastically cut at two Dayton-area movie theaters, while at least one has decided to shut down.

Before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued Thursday a ban on mass gatherings of more than 100 people at a list of venue types that includes movie theaters, Neon Manager Jonathan McNeal said he devised a plan to slash seating capacity in the Neon's two theaters in half to 65 in the larger space and 35 in the smaller.

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“We want to make our customers feel as comfortable as possible,” he said. “We are making changes to the frequency of our cleaning.”

McNeal said theater-goers will be able to have a seat between themselves and other customers.

Hand sanitizer has also been purchased for the theater.

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McNeal said the virus and concern about it will have an impact on the Neon.

“It will have a hit, but the priority is our customers and their safety and comfort,” McNeal said.

Some studios have delayed release of movies to avoid being impacted by fewer people in the theaters.

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The Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs is temporarily suspending showings.

“The Governor has asked the people of Ohio to do their part to protect the health of us all. The Little Art Theatre has heard that call and is temporarily suspending showings until further assessment of the situation is available,” executive director Jenny Cowperthwaite said in a release.

In a statement, Luis Olloqui, CEO of Cinépolis, which has a location at Austin Landing, said guest an employee safety are important to the chain.

“ We are monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect within communities where we operate. We are currently working with individual locations by state to adhere to any and all government mandates,” he said. “We believe deeply in the power of cinema to bring communities together in the most difficult times. That being said, the health of our guests and employees is our number one concern.”

Cinemark, which owns several Dayton-area theaters, said in a statement its theaters are increasing cleaning and sanitization, modifying its policy on refillable concessions using new containers and more. The theater urges anyone not feeling well to stay home to prevent the spread of germs.

This news organization is seeking comment from other national movie theater companies.

Large events at Englewood Cinema like this weekend's Horrorama Dayton's Alien Invasion and the band Idiedtrying's live performance and screening of  "Friday The 13th III" in 3D have been postponed, according to a message posted on the theater's Facebook page.

“We plan to keep scheduling films, with our next being “Jurassic Park.” To provide the best environment possible, we will be cleaning and sanitizing the kitchen, theater, restrooms, doors, counters and equipment in-between each showtime. Thank You all for your support  and we hope to see you at the Cinema,”  the message says.

Emily von Stuckrad-Smolinski, the executive director of the Plaza Theatre in Miamisburg, said she also devised a plan to reduce her theater's capacity before the governor's announcement.

The theater can hold 292 people.

“We are putting our cap at 90. That includes volunteers and staff ,” Smolinski said. “We stocked up on everything we possibly can.”

The Plaza volunteers and staff have stepped up cleaning, she said.

Smolinski said she is also working with bookers and other movie industry officials to revise box office expectations.

“The studios are being very understanding,” she said.

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