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Movie theaters get the green-light to reopen this week

A theater sits empty at Starlight Cinema in Independence on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Ben Thompson, a co-owner of the theater, is taking steps to prepare to reopen after Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the relaxing of coronavirus-related restrictions. (Brian Tabick/KCRG)
A theater sits empty at Starlight Cinema in Independence on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Ben Thompson, a co-owner of the theater, is taking steps to prepare to reopen after Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the relaxing of coronavirus-related restrictions. (Brian Tabick/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: May. 20, 2020 at 9:35 PM CDT
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Movie theaters, zoos, and state parks can reopen Friday, with modifications so people can keep the 6-foot distance between them and the others along with added sanitation measures.

Ben Thompson, co-owner of Starlight Cinema in Independence, said it wasn't easy to pull the curtain down and lock the doors to his theater over for the last two months. Like any small business owner, he feared the unknown.

"Whether it's a movie theater or restaurant, I think that's always a fear of not knowing how long it's going to be closed or what this is going to do to the ability to gather and places like this in general,” Thompson said.

The announcement Wednesday that Thompson would once again be able to fill some of the chairs, pop some popcorn in the machine, and get a movie on the big screen brought a sense of relief; however, it's not going to be easy. Only 50% of these chairs are allowed to be full and new sanitation measures will need to be put in place.

"We've got to go through and restock all of our goods, we have to go through movie companies find out what's available to bring in and what movies we can get our hands-on,” Thompson said. “We need to be able to protect our staff and train them on all of the new ways of disinfecting in that."

While the general trend of positive COVID-19 test results in Iowa is downward, the state still sees new cases every day. Gov. Kim Reynolds said hospitals aren't being overwhelmed, leaving the resources available for people with severe cases.

So, she said, it's time to start opening a place like the Starlight Cinema.

"We have to move forward and recognize the fact that this virus is in our communities,” Reynolds said. “We have to learn to navigate that until or if a vaccine is discovered and Iowans are doing that."

Thompson said he isn't quite sure when he will officially be able to open back up, as it usually takes a couple of days to order a movie to show at the theater. But, he's ready to learn how his business will operate under this new normal.

"Even if we're not going to be 100% the way things were before, it’s going to bring some normalcy, just the ability to open the doors and have people coming through again,” Thompson said. “A movie-going experience is something you can't replicate at home."

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