Delaware’s iconic Strand Theatre is returning to a sense of normalcy, marking a major milestone for the theatre as it continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. Last Thursday, Managing Director Tracey Peyton announced the theatre will begin exhibiting first-run films at a full capacity each Friday through Sunday as moviegoers are welcomed back to the cinema.
Peyton said the theatre is purposely easing into the reopening as a “wait and see” approach to the community’s response. She said the movie slate has nothing to do with the tempered approach, pointing out that the slate “looks pretty healthy,” a far cry from how it looked this time last year. “It was bad back then,” Peyton said, adding there is a big title coming to the Strand every week for the foreseeable future.
“We know that some patrons may be a little cautious in coming back to the movies right away, so we will be open weekends only for the moment, and we want the public to help us decide when to reopen seven days a week,” Peyton said in a press release announcing the reopening.
Asked if there is any concern about whether or not movie theaters will ever fully revert back to their past popularity, given the emerging trend of movies going straight to streaming services, Peyton said she believes people will return to theaters simply for the experience it provides.
“You can’t get that communal environment, sitting in a dark theater with that boom and base and great popcorn, people going into a movie theater not knowing each other and then coming out (connected) because they experienced something similar,” Peyton told the Gazette. “There’s something to be said about these bigger blockbusters — James Bond, Black Widow, Matrix 4 — seeing those at home isn’t going to be the same. You have to see them in the theater.”
As for safety precautions, Peyton said the theatre’s sanitation process and plexiglass shields will remain, and employees will continue to wear masks. Patrons who have been fully vaccinated will not be required to wear masks. Online ticketing will be strongly encouraged in order to reduce hand-to-hand exchanges, but card and cash transactions will still be accepted at the Strand.
As part of its reopening, the Strand will also take part in the national Cinema Week promotion from June 22-27 to celebrate the reopening of shuttered or partially shuttered movie theaters.
“It’s been like a rollercoaster ride,” Peyton said when asked to describe the past year. “You don’t know how you’re going to feel until it’s all over. You have your ups and your downs, and finally, when everything gets going and the rollercoaster is going really fast, which would signify our reopening, you get super excited. And then it’s over and you’re like, ‘Let’s do it again.’”
While it’s been a wild ride, Peyton said she is extremely grateful for the support that’s been shown to the Strand over the past year, which, by and large, has allowed the theatre to overcome circumstances that many other small theatres were not able to survive.
“We belong to a group called the National Association of Theatre Owners, and we had webinars every week throughout the pandemic,” Peyton said. “We are very fortunate because a lot of smaller, independent theaters did not make it. The support that the community has given to us, the donors, the community partners, everyone, we’re so fortunate and extremely grateful. Being in any other town, we might not have been as fortunate as we have been.”
For more information on events and promotions at the Strand, visit www.thestrandtheatre.net or check its social media accounts.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.