KENDALLVILLE — Once again movie theaters didn’t make the cut as Gov. Eric Holcomb moved their reopening to Stage 4 of his Back on Track Indiana plan.
Holcomb announced Wednesday that the state would be moving on to Stage 3 of his plan, which initially would have allowed movie theaters across the state to reopen at a reduced capacity.
When the order was signed on Thursday however movie theaters were excluded from those businesses able to reopen.
Kevin Robbins who operates the Strand Theatre, in downtown Kendallville with his wife, Kathy said the news was like another “kick in the teeth.”
The couple reopened the theater nine days before Gov. Holcomb’s stay-at-home order went into effect in March.
Robbins said he was all ready to reopen the theater until the latest executive order was signed.
“It is frustrating for all movie theater owners,” he said. “We are paying fixed expenses and don’t have any income coming in.”
To help make ends meet during the closure the Robbins have been selling popcorn and nachos and cheese on a drive-up basis on selected Saturdays. The couple will be back at it today from 1-6 p.m.
He said the popcorn sales have helped to pay the fixed expenses, keeping the theater afloat.
“I don’t know how we can repay the generosity of the community and our customers,” Robbins said. “Without that this would have been a really hard road.”
Looking ahead to Stage 4, which the state is set to enter in mid-June Robbins says he is ready.
“We have a plan in place,” he said.
Robbins has already had discussions on the local level with the board of health and is currently working out details of how to socially distance patrons within the theater.
“That is the hard part,” he said. “I am going to have to be policing it after we reopen.”
The other big challenge for the theater will be keeping patrons six feet apart in the theater’s lobby. Tape will be placed on the floor to help patrons space themselves out.
Locally the Auburn Garrett Drive-in reopened last weekend with social distancing guidelines in place.
“We had a good weekend,” said Bruce Babbitt, owner. “I couldn’t have asked for a more cooperative crowd.”
Babbitt said he had to turn a few cars away Saturday night, but some of them returned for the second show after other patrons had left.
Restrictions put in place included one car between posts to accommodate proper social distancing. Patrons must remain in their vehicles, there is no sitting on the ground. The concession stand is limited to four or five people at one time and will only offer a limited supply of snacks. Bathrooms are open to two people at a time.
Due to the limited food menu patrons can bring in outside food.
He said only being allowed to have a 50% occupancy allowed things to run smoothly.
“People were glad to get out and enjoy something halfway normal,” Babbitt said.