Local cinema reopens after being closed since March | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local cinema reopens after being closed since March

Cheyanne Neuffer

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — “It’s 100% safe and I really mean that,” said owner of the Heavenly Village Cinema, Jana Harrah.

In March, movie theaters closed across the country. Heavenly Village Cinema shut their doors on March 19, but this month have reopened.

Jana and Jerry Harrah originally opened the independent Heavenly Village Cinema in January of 2004. With years of designing and equipping home theaters for celebrities and screening rooms for companies like Disney, Sony and Warner Bros., the Harrahs had the opportunity to design the inside of their own cinema and they designed it with extra space in mind.

The Harrahs’ were excited to finally open doors to their theater in one of their favorite places, Lake Tahoe. The theater has now been running for nearly 17 years.

Heavenly Village Cinema braved through the 2008 economic crisis and now they are still recovering from this year’s coronavirus pandemic.

Jana Harrah said this is another financial hurdle to struggle through, but said she and her husband remain optimistic.

They tried to open for a few days in July but had to shut doors again. On Sept. 3, they were given the go-ahead to open their doors. The theater opened with the showing of the new film, Tennet.

“We put our head down and got back to work,” she said. “Lake Tahoe needs a movie theater.”

The Heavenly Village Cinema has been a member of the National Association of Theatre Owners for 17 years. NATO has 33,000 motion picture screens in the United States alone. NATO introduced CinemaSafe in response to the pandemic, which outlines voluntary health and safety protocols for movie theater owners. It was created to present a guide for a safe reopening of theaters around the country, and Heavenly Village Cinema follows the set standards of CinemaSafe.

“Our cinema is committed to meeting or exceeding all CDC, state and local regulations, as well as CinemaSafe expert-backed suggestions,” said Harrah.

Upon opening, Heavenly Village Cinema has implemented several protocols to keep customers safe when visiting the theater. Harrah said the theater is also monitored to ensure people are following the guidelines.

As El Dorado County is still in the red or “substantial” tier, theaters are allowed to operate at 25% capacity. This means that in the theater’s big auditorium where around 180 people can usually watch a film, only about 45 are allowed. This gives ample space for social-distancing.

Harrah says that while people must sit away from each other, they dont rope any seats off in case families want to sit together.

“We have not had a problem,” Harrah said.

Both customers and employees are required to wear masks the entire time. Customers can take off masks to eat inside the theater but are required to put them on afterwards.

“Do what makes sense to stay safe,” she said.

The theater’s snack bar was also redone to ensure safe distancing and plexiglass was also installed.

The theater’s restrooms are cleaned before and after every movie showing.

Harrah says that the theater is constantly being cleaned with bleach and Lysol.

“It’s never been so sanitized,” she said. “I am committed to keeping it safe for the public and employees.”

Not only were theaters closed during the shutdown but Hollywood also postponed many film releases. Harrah says that Hollywood will be releasing more ‘blockbuster’ films as we get closer to November but as of now there are still good films out.

“As more theaters open [around the county], more films will be released,” she said.

Harrah said that it’s been a slow but steady reopening. It is getting busier everyday, but she is in need of more business.

As the seasons change, Harrah hopes more people will visit the theater.

“We are getting back to what’s going to be the new normal,” she said. “Let’s get back to the movie business.”

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