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Portland Movie Theaters May Now Reopen. Several Are Choosing Not To.

Some theaters say they will not reopen until they are allowed to sell concessions again—Oregon is the only state to restrict sales of food and beverages at movie theaters, to ensure patrons keep their masks on while inside.

In theory, you could go see a movie at a theater today.

On Friday, state officials upgraded Multnomah County's coronavirus case status from "extreme" to "high" risk, allowing the return of some previously restricted indoor activities. Movie theaters, which had previously been shuttered completely, may reopen at 25% of their normal capacity, or with a 50-guest limit, whichever number is smaller.

Of course, the city is still buried under several inches of snow (with an ice storm descending), and traveling the roads remains inadvisable. And even after thawing out, several local independent cinemas have decided to stay closed, at least for the time being.

The Hollywood Theatre on Northeast Sandy Boulevard had shifted to private rentals before the surge in COVID-19 cases in the fall. In a statement, the theater says it will concentrate first on rescheduling postponed private rentals for subscription members.

"In the meantime," the theater says, "we'll be discussing the safest and most fiscally responsible way to gradually reopen the Hollywood."

Other theaters are also taking a wait-and-see approach.

Cinema 21 owner Tom Ranieri tells WW the Nob Hill theater will not reopen until it is allowed to sell concessions again—Oregon is the only state to restrict sales of food and beverages at movie theaters, to ensure patrons keep their masks on while inside.

"We want to give it a few weeks," says Prescott Allen, owner of Southeast Portland's Laurelhurst Theater. "Hopefully, cases stay low and it will make sense to get open and be able to stay open."

One cinema that is reopening immediately? Living Room Theaters, the small, Florida-based chain with a location in downtown Portland, which sent out showtime information hours after Gov. Kate Brown's office announced the county's upgraded guidelines.

Office manager Joshua Dommermuth says the theater is "slow pedaling" its reopening: Only six guests will be admitted in each of its four screening rooms, which is fewer than allowed given the restrictions.

"We're staying a little bit behind restrictions," Dommermuth says, "before [Gov. Brown] cancels them again."

And apparently, there is some desire for Portlanders to watch movies outside of their actual living rooms again: Several upcoming screenings of Judas and the Black Messiah, which also premiered on HBO Max this weekend, are sold out.