SOUTH HADLEY – The Tower Theater in South Hadley is working hard to continue helping families find ways to have fun throughout the pandemic and throughout the summer months.
Stacey Velez, who is director of theater development, explained that the business reopened in the summer of 2020. “We’ve been open for a few weeks since theaters were allowed to reopen in July. We waited a few weeks, checked out a few theaters and decided we could do it, ”she said.
Before reopening, she said the theater closed completely in March 2020 and chose not to do virtual programming as some other theaters chose to do during that time. When they reopened to the public, she said the theater had “reduced hours and capacity.”
She said the restrictions and capacity limits they followed were those imposed by state guidelines. To help social distancing and safely allow for reduced capacity, Velez said the theater had removed “all other rows of seats” and “put table tops in place.” Additionally, she said they “increased our social distancing to over six feet required.”
Meanwhile, dealership sales have come to a complete halt and new movie releases have been slow. Eliminating concession sales, she explained, has been “very difficult” for the theater because “like most theaters, most of the income comes from concession sales.” However, she said the sale of food and drink was re-authorized by the state in September. “Our concessions are pretty much the same, [there are] a couple that we haven’t brought back because we don’t have the traffic to back it up, but it’s all available except for a few specialty chocolates and stuff, ”she said.
To combat the lack of new films released in the film industry, Velez said he has made second screenings of films such as “Jaws”. “When we opened there wasn’t a lot of new stuff to show. We did second screenings, we did ‘Jaws’ in August,” she said. That has now changed as the The film industry picks up and new films are released to the public.
“Now new movies are starting to come out again,” Velez said. The release of new films has also contributed to an increase in cinema activity after a slow start to their reopening, she said.
“Business has been extremely slow in July, August and September. It was only in the last two months that it has increased significantly, ”said Velez. She said one of the factors contributing to the increase in business was the release of one of Disney’s last films, “Raya and the Last Dragon”. She said that while they “got a lot of people out of this” movie, she saw regulars come in regularly to continue watching movies throughout the reopening.
“Regulars come to see films on a dedicated basis week after week. The general public have been cautious about her return, ”she said.
To ensure the safety of clients and staff, the theater “follows all safety instructions”. She said while capacity restrictions have been slowly lifted and increased, social distancing requirements have not, which limits what the theater can do. However, they have yet to put the rows of seats back in place as they were proceeding with caution.
“We have not yet decided to put all the other rows of seats back in place, we are waiting and prefer to be a little careful and slower to bring people together,” she said. “The industry is pushing for three-foot social distancing, but I don’t know if any states have granted it yet.”
In addition to social distancing, Velez said those who visited the theater were “required to wear masks at all times, unless they are actually sitting in the theater and eating or drinking concessions.” Overall, she said that there had been no problem and that she believed “people feel better when they see people wearing masks.”
Regarding summer movie releases, she said the cinema will be showing the movie “A Quiet Place 2” and “Cruella” in the coming weeks. “The list of films is filling up for the summer,” she said, adding that the theater would continue to “watch CDC and state guidelines” for advice and to determine their next steps.