Blair 3 Theatres

The Blair 3 Theatres remains closed as the coronavirus pandemic is keeping the availability of new movies from being available.

There's nothing more "normal" than sitting in a movie theater with a big tub of popcorn and watching the latest hit on screen.

But nothing has been "normal" since March when the coronavirus pandemic took hold and closed businesses, including the Blair 3 Theatres.

Barry Ashley, who has owned the Blair 3 Theatres for 19 years, has been struggling these past few months.

"We closed because of public health. We are taking a real cautious approach to reopening because with COVID-19 it's such an unknown," he said. "The movie industry has a lot of challenges. There's no product. We can't get movies and even if we could it would be open to limited capacity."

Ashley said the auditoriums would be capped around 50 patrons in a theater that can hold 129 in each showing.

On the theater marquee is an invitation to go to a #SaveYourCinema campaign by the National Association of Theater Owners.

"They are pushing a campaign to show theaters are an important part of the community," Ashley said. "The save our cinema is to urge the support of the RESTART Act and to please press (the) treasury and the Federal Reserve to implement more relief measures for cinemas of all sizes."

Ashley said the Main Street Lending Program cut out theaters.

"Some banks wouldn't even discuss it with theaters," he said. "I got a small Payroll Protection Plan loan that doesn't do me any good or help me reopen. It's just to ensure we can pay employees if we have any employees to defray people filing for unemployment."

Ashley has things to do if a new movie is ever available, though he has started some of the changes.

"We have to do a lot of retrofitting of plexiglass, put up hand sanitizer stations, implement new concession procedures that limits what we can and can't sell," he said. "There are all kinds of roadblocks, then on top of it all we have to make sure the staff is screened and has protective gear and new training methods."

The theater will have to make sure people social distance and wear masks, according to Ashley. The theater doesn't have online ticketing which could make for challenges in the ticket line.

"We have a lot of challenges ahead of us if we're going to keep the theater and that's what we plan to do," he said.

Showing older movies is not an option, Ashley said.

"I lose less money staying closed than showing old movies," he said. "I have to pay the same upfront price for an old movie as a first-run film."

Ashley said the next possible movie release will be "Tenet" in September.

"If I had something to show, I could be up and running quickly if it was safe," he said. "That's the concern I have."

The answer to when he can open is up in the air.

"When is it safe? That's the real question," he said. "I couldn't live with myself if someone came and got sick or if there's an outbreak if I was a super spreader event. This thing is too scary and too dangerous."

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