coronavirus closures

Movie Theaters Are Opening After Pandemic Threatened to Shut Them Down

NBC 7 Responds looked at how movie theaters are reopening and trying to thrive

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

The entertainment industry was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Many theaters had to lay off staff and temporarily shut down, others offered private screenings and food sales. Now, many local theaters have opened their doors once again.

"It's been a struggle," said Marcos Sayd, General Manager of THE LOT La Jolla. "We really have been working hard to make sure that once we're open very, very soon, we'll be back stronger than ever.

After the second shutdown, NBC 7 looked at how hard theaters were being hit. Sayd said his location has been shut down for six months. Now, they've just brought back employees and are getting ready to open the combination bar, restaurant, and theater.

"Having people here, having guests here, being able to serve, that's what the hospitality business thrives on," said Sayd.

To stay afloat, Sayd says they're applying for grants set aside for the entertainment industry. Other local theater owners are doing the same. The 93-year-old La Paloma in Encinitas is back open, but with fewer patrons.

"We have about 400 seats so it's easy to spread out and maintain the social distancing," said owner Allen Largent. "I think a lot of people are a little hesitant to get back out. A lot of people are anxious."

The La Paloma is very different from the more modern multiplex theaters. When it opened in the 1920s it was showing silent films. Now, it's the only remaining single-screen cinema in San Diego.

Largent says he hopes to get back to the events that helped fill the theater like film festivals and screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. In addition to the pandemic, streaming services have also affected the theater industry.

"A lot of the stuff that we've been playing has been available on streaming services for months," said Largent.

Still, he's optimistic. Largent plans to continue upgrading the historic theater as people start to feel more comfortable being out and about.

"People can let others know that we're open again and they can come and see movies," said Largent. "We gotta pop the popcorn and get the doors open and on with the show."

Sayd says another challenge has been finding employees. With everything his location offers, he had to find a lot more workers than most other employers in the entertainment industry.

"The staff and requirements for this building are larger than any single restaurant, any single theater, any single private events venue," said Sayd. "Having all the pieces in place except for that is definitely a struggle."

In the meantime Sayd says THE LOT has been working to improve the food and beverage side of the business.

"It's meant for people to be in those seats, watching movies, enjoying cocktails and food," said Sayd. "That's what we want to get to very soon."

Contact Us