By SONAIYA KELLEY / STAFF WRITER
After more than a year of pandemic closures, Laemmle Theatres will begin to reopen its doors April 9, starting with six of the historic SoCal chain’s eight venues.
“It’s been a tough year on so many fronts,” said Greg Laemmle, president of the family-owned business, in a press release. “If you had asked me in March of 2020 whether we could survive being closed for over a year, I would probably say that it would not be possible and yet here we are. Call it a leap of faith that we are moving ahead even without the full knowledge of how it will all work out.”
Along with the brand new Laemmle Newhall location in Santa Clarita, the chain’s Claremont, Santa Monica, North Hollywood, Pasadena and West L.A. locations are scheduled to reopen April 9. Laemmle’s Glendale theater will reopen in May, while its Encino venue could open even sooner, pending lease negotiations.
In the meantime, the theaters are planning to make repairs, rehire longtime general managers and train new and returning staff on the new safety protocols that will need to be enforced because of COVID-19.
All locations will follow CinemaSafe protocols developed by the National Assn. of Theatre Owners in conjunction with leading epidemiologists: Buildings will be fitted with new safety measures including enhanced ventilation systems, plexiglass barriers, hydrogen peroxide fogger machines, hand sanitizing stations, contact-free devices and plenty of personal protection equipment for staff members. Additionally, reserved seating will be implemented to ensure adequate physical distancing between patrons.
The 82-year-old chain has survived an increasingly competitive theater climate, the growth of streaming platforms and video on-demand sites and now a historic pandemic. After being forced to shutter its doors last year when COVID-19 brought the entertainment industry and the rest of the world to a standstill, the art house chain adapted by screening movies online, which it will continue to do. Some titles will be offered exclusively in-person, while others will be exclusively online, but Laemmle says it will try to ensure simultaneous availability whenever possible.