WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
Steve Herring considers himself lucky: As the CEO of Living Room Theaters, he sometimes gets to watch movies on the big screen—by himself, in his own theater.
He'd like it if other people could soon join him.
This week, Herring joined 10 other independent theater owners across Oregon in signing a petition arguing for Gov. Kate Brown to allow cinemas to open in counties still in Phase 1 of the state's reopening plan.
Currently, movie theaters are classified as "venues" and are included in Phase 2 of Oregon's COVID-19 reopening plan. The petition, written by Tom Ranieri, owner of Cinema 21 in Northwest Portland, argues that movie theaters are "absolutely capable of operating scrupulously under the guidelines of Phase 1. Many of us sell food and alcohol, just like the restaurants, bars and taverns who are our neighbors and have been allowed to operate under Phase 1 here since June 19, nearly two months ago."
The letter to Gov. Brown goes on to say that if movie studios do not have assurances that theaters will reopen soon, major releases—like Christopher Nolan's much anticipated Tenet, slated to release in the U.S. on Sept. 3—will be withheld from the market completely, further crippling businesses that are already struggling to stay above water financially.
"We have a very short window in which to get certainty that we can operate again and to assure distributors of that," Ranieri writes. "We truly don't have weeks, it's a matter of days."
Herring agrees. But he also acknowledges that, even at significantly reduced capacities and with multiple safety precautions in place, theaters will still face a psychological hurdle when it comes to getting people back through the door—which is all the more reason to start doing so as early as possible, to allow audiences to reacclimate to the experience.
Herring talked to WW about how Living Room Theaters plans to make moviegoing safe for visitors and how to get patrons gazing at a single screen once again.
See more Distant Voices interviews here.