Latest COVID-19 relief bill gives hope to local small independent theaters

Posted at 10:53 PM, Dec 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 08:42:22-05

IDAHO — The latest COVID-19 relief package is giving local smaller theaters hope. The bill includes $15 billion to support small independent theaters, music, and live venues that have struggled due to the pandemic.

The long-awaited stimulus deal is a sigh of relief for Eldon Sorensen, business manager for the Reel Theatres.

"We are small independent and hardest hit, hard-hit industry, hard hit business size," Sorensen said.

Sorensen said the new bill gave them the confidence to reopen the Eagle Luxe Reel Theatre on Tuesday —one of its five theaters locations in the Treasure Valley. They've been close since March.

"This particular theater in Eagle it's our highest demand theater," Sorensen said. "So knowing we have those funds coming, we feel comfortable to open this one, and then as we see how long it takes to get those funds, we'll look to reopen the others. it will probably be a scale back operation."

Those operations include following CDC's (Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention) safety practices like requiring masks to enter the theater, limiting seats inside the auditorium, implementing cleaning, disinfecting guidelines, and installing hand sanitizer dispensers.

"We'll have movies on all of the screens and fewer showtimes through the day, but we will ramp as we see the demand come up," he said.

Sorensen said their plan was initially to reopen the Luxe Reel Theatre in Eagle for Christmas Day but decided to wait after President Donald Trump delayed signing the bill.

"We are a consumer business. People that are struggling and need unemployment benefits that need to get back to work. All of those kinds of things we are all connected that way. We are excited to be open as a small business. It's is really that will save our business is the passage of this bill," Sorensen said.