Amherst Cinema reopening at 50 percent capacity

  • The Amherst Cinema will reopen its theaters at 50% capacity and will again sell walk-up tickets through its box office. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, July 05, 2021

Amherst Cinema, which reopened its doors for very limited audiences in March, is expanding theater capacity for live films, adding walk-up sales from its box office, and reopening a full concessions stand, including beer and wine options.

This new stage of what the cinema calls its “phased reopening plan” begins Friday, July 2, following the easing of state restrictions on public gatherings and for movie houses due to COVID-19.

The film center closed in March 2020 because of the pandemic, then months later made its largest theater available for private rentals to small groups of people. In March 2021, it began selling tickets online for films that could be viewed by groups of up to about 10 people, who were required to wear face masks.

Now, the center will reopen for live audiences at up to 50% capacity, and people who have received a COVID-19 vaccination will not need to wear masks; those not vaccinated will need a face mask, per CDC guidelines, the cinema says.

The cinema’s executive director, Yasmin Chin Eisenhauer, says the movie house will continue to monitor health conditions there — new air filtration systems and stepped-up cleaning policies remain in place — but that the encouraging progress in the state to combat the pandemic has left the movie house in a good position to expand its capacity.

“For more than nine months, we’ve operated at single-digit audience capacities,” Eisenhauer said in a statement. “As the nation and state reopen, we are moving forward, too, with great optimism, continued commitment to safety, and an exciting summer lineup.”

Among the films on tap this summer are new first-run features, including the award-winning documentary “Summer of Soul,” about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival; another documentary, “Roadrunner,” on the late chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain; and “The Green Knight,” a fantasy story based on the King Arthur legend, with a focus on Sir Gawain, Arthur’s nephew; the film stars Dev Patel.

The cinema also will show four older films as part of its “Big Screen Classics” series: ”The Big Lebowski,” “Do the Right Thing,” “Jaws,” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

To accommodate people still hesitant about attending indoor public events, Eisenhauer says the cinema will offer “Masked Mornings” films on Saturday and Sundays, the first screenings of the day, at which face coverings will be required for all guests, audience capacity will be capped at 25%, and no concessions will be sold.

The cinema’s virtual film program, started last spring, will continue as well, she said.

Online tickets for the new summer films become available June 29, while box office sales begin July 2. More information on the films and the new theater capacities is available at amherstcinema.org.