After being forced to close as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, The Strand Theatre in downtown Delaware is hoping to reopen in July if the necessary pieces fall into place. In a press release issued Wednesday, the theatre announced a multi-phase fundraising effort it hopes will allow the iconic staple to once again welcome moviegoers through its doors.
“As a nonprofit, we have always operated on a thin margin,” said Tracey Peyton, managing director of The Strand, in the release. “With the COVID crisis, we’ve taken a huge hit financially, just as so many other small businesses have. But we’re optimistic that, with the community’s support, we can reopen and stay open.”
The Strand’s board of directors has set a target of $50,000 to be raised, which would be used to purchase additional cleaning and personal protective equipment supplies, maintain the building’s ventilation system, and “beef up staffing for an escalated cleaning process,” the release states.
For the first fundraising phase, the theatre will reach out to its longtime donors and patrons. The second and third phases will consist of a pair of online mechanisms. A GoFundMe page has been established under the hashtag “StrandSafe” and can be found by visiting https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/strandsafe.
On June 10-11, The Strand will take part in the Big Give fundraiser hosted by the Columbus Foundation. The Big Give is a 25-hour, online fundraiser that will begin at 10 a.m. on June 10. Visit https://columbusfoundation.org/the-giving-store/nonprofit-directory-listing/TheStrandTheatre/15587 to access The Strand’s account for the fundraiser, which will end at 11 a.m. June 11.
Supporters who wish to donate directly to the theatre can do so by going to The Strand’s website at https://www.thestrandtheatre.net/take-action.
Whenever The Strand is ready to reopen, the three-theatre, 450-seat building will not be operating at full capacity as part of social distancing. Peyton told The Gazette the theatre is currently working on a page to be added to the website that will include all the health and safety procedures for both employees and patrons. Part of that page will include the social distancing requirements.
However, Peyton said that until they know what Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s guidelines are in regard to a percentage of occupancy at which theatres should operate, she won’t know to what end social distancing will look like inside the theatre. Peyton added that she has seen models where two seats are left between every patron, and when theatres are allowed to reopen, her team will go in and measure six-foot distances for seating in accordance with whatever guidelines the governor may give.
Peyton said some of the challenges the theatre faces in reopening, in addition to funding, is whether or not to require patrons to wear masks.
“I think what we would like to do is offer masks to guests that don’t come in with one,” she said, adding that there are some employees who want to come back to work who fall in the high-risk category of contracting the virus.
“We have to be able to protect them as well as protect the patrons that come in the theatre,” Peyton went on to say.
Another challenge Peyton faces is simply acquiring the personal protective equipment needed to reopen. She said a lot of the equipment that has been ordered is currently on backorder, some of which isn’t expected to be available until after the timeframe in which she expects the governor to allow theatres to reopen.
“That’s a concern, because we can’t really reopen until we have the necessary personal protective equipment,” Peyton said.
Among the equipment she is seeking is individually packaged sanitizer wipes that can be given to patrons with their tickets so they can do their own sanitizing in addition to staff cleaning. Peyton said she has been unable to find a vendor offering the wipes, however. The Strand did install hand sanitizer stations just before the close, Peyton said, which will be available to patrons when the theatre reopens.
Plexiglass shields will also be installed at the box office and at the concession stand as a further measure to ensure everyone’s safety.
Of course, all the added health and safety precautions only further underline the need for additional funding. Peyton said gloves, for instance, need to be changed often by every employee, meaning the theatre will go through them quickly.
“The costs add up because this equipment is not inexpensive,” she said.
Asked if ticket prices are expected change when the theatre reopens, Peyton said there is no plan for such changes.
Peyton continued to caution that there is no guarantee The Strand will reopen whenever the governor gives the green light, saying the doors will only open when the time is right for their theatre.
“We’re only going to open when we are ready, when we have the necessary personal protective equipment, and when we have gone through training and classes with the equipment and mock-customers coming through the lines,” she said.
Whenever the time comes, Peyton said she is very much looking forward to having the community come together again to enjoy the movie experience in the theatre.
“We’re looking forward to that communal experience (returning), regardless of how big or small that is, because that’s what going to the movies is all about,” Peyton said. “People remember their first big movie experience when the big reveal came with a bunch of strangers in a dark room eating popcorn. That’s a memory that will stay with us forever.”
Peyton went on to say that in the research she has done, the community seems excited to return to the theatre as long as The Strand has implemented the proper health and safety measures.
“They’re excited to get back to the movie theatres,” she said. “They’re tired of being cooped up in their houses, they want to get out and be among the living and enjoy this experience that has been a part of their lives since they were kids.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.