Big Wood 4

Per the governor’s orders, movie theaters can reopen now, but local cinemas—like the Big Wood 4 in Hailey—are still working on plans, with only older movies available to them to screen.

Movie theaters were given the green light to open last Saturday, two weeks ahead of the governor’s original plan for reopening Idaho businesses. But theaters in the Wood River Valley aren’t open just yet.

The Magic Lantern in Ketchum, Big Wood 4 Cinemas in Hailey and the Sun Valley Opera House in Sun Valley are still formulating plans and figuring out reopening dates, spokespersons for the theaters told the Mountain Express this week.

Gov. Brad Little announced last Thursday that movie theaters would be allowed to reopen on May 30, two weeks sooner than initially scheduled. Little said state officials approved moving theaters from stage four of the reopening plan to stage three after theaters came together and presented a list of recommended safety protocol to the state.

“I would much rather accelerate things, and still give people prior notification [of opening], than I would slow things down,” Little said at the time.

But in the Wood River Valley, the governor’s change in plans hasn’t changed those of local theaters.

Big Wood 4 Cinemas in Hailey is “currently in the process of putting everything together,” said Natalie Eig, vice president of marketing with the Metropolitan Theatres Corp., which runs the business. One challenge, Eig said, is that only months-old films are available to theaters right now, with new films not expected to come out until July.

“It’s great to be able to say, ‘Hey, we’re open,’ but we’re going to be showing older movies,” Eig said. “That’s one of our bigger hindrances, what [movies] are available.”

The company will likely have a clearer idea of when the theater will reopen after figuring out which movies can and should be shown, Eig said. While the theater may not have new movies until July, it won’t necessarily wait until July to reopen, she noted.

In Ketchum, Magic Lantern Cinemas is looking to reopen sometime in June, owner Rick Kessler said, though an exact date hasn’t been set yet.

And the Sun Valley Resort is “still evaluating” the opening date for its Opera House, resort spokeswoman Bridget Higgins said, “as the safety and well-being of our employees and guests remain our top priority.”

The Magic Lantern Cinemas website includes a description of safety measures that the theater plans to take when it does reopen. The theater will operate at a reduced capacity, the website says, and staff members are training for “continual sanitizing” of the facility. Masks will be required while buying tickets and concessions—with a “no mask, no entry” policy “strictly enforced”—and customers will be required to use a sanitizing station upon entering the building.

Theater safety recommendations published by the state include keeping at least three seats, or 6 feet, of distance between parties in the theater; providing adequate ventilation of the theater by opening doors; encouraging online ticket purchases; and spacing out the movie schedule to allow staff to disinfect the theater between showings.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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