Safety No. 1 concern at Villages theaters

Alex Mills, risk manager of The Villages Movie Theaters, wipes down handrails following an afternoon movie Monday at the Barnstorm Theatre in Brownwood.

Laura Kahle, of the Village of Caroline, said it feels good to be back at the movies. 

“I think they’ve done a really good job with the arrows and (spraying) in the bathrooms and around the concessions,” said Kahle, after seeing “Sometimes Always Never” at Old Mill Playhouse on Monday. “I feel comfortable.” Patrons’ safety comes first, said Deborah Mills, operations director of The Villages Movie Theaters, which reopened last week after a three-month hiatus amid Coronavirus concerns. Rialto Theatre in Spanish Spring is still under renovation, but Lake Sumter Landing’s Old Mill Playhouse and Brownwood’s Barnstorm Theater currently are showing a mix of new releases and past favorites. “The Villages is beyond supportive and has given us so many tools to make this an easy process,” Mills said. “They’ve been great as far as making sure we have the information and tools we need at our fingertips to streamline this and make it as painless as possible.”

Alex Mills, assistant manager at Barnstorm Theater and appointed risk-management specialist for The Villages Movie Theaters, has been training movie theater staff and Lazy Mac’s Taco Shack employees.

In addition to 6-foot spacing on the floors, row spacing in the auditoriums and cleaning the restrooms every 10 to 15 minutes, employees are cleaning spaces including the auditoriums and concession areas with hospital-grade disinfectant, Alex said.

Alex said that disinfectant spray also is fumigated all over the theaters once a week. 

“Our customers have been really pleased,” Alex said. “I’ve been talking to everyone I can as they leave, and they’ve all said they feel safe. We’re just trying to make it so everyone feels comfortable.”

Eileen Patton, of the Village of Belle Aire, and Nancy Coppola, of Haciendas of Mission Hills, also saw “Sometimes Always Never” at Old Mill Playhouse on Monday and enjoyed the experience. 

Both said that they felt safe the whole time.

“It was fantastic,” Patton said. “Everything was just perfect. Even the girls at the popcorn stand took good care of us.”

Alex said that more auditoriums will be opening to show more movies this weekend. Lazy Mac’s Taco Shack, which is in Old Mill Playhouse, reopened on Tuesday with menu items including street corn, salads, Mexican flan, cinnamon churros and more. Many of the dishes incorporate ingredients sourced from The Villages Grown.

Meanwhile, Deborah has been working to book more new releases to the theaters, including “Irresistible,” which stars Steve Carell; “Mulan;” “Antebellum;” “The New Mutants;” and more. For showtimes and more information on movies coming to The Villages, visit thevillagestheaters.com

“There’s not as much new content out there as I would like, but I’ll make sure to get what we’re looking for,” Deborah said.

Alex said he would recommend coming to see a movie because it provides a time to relax. 

“Going to the movies is the greatest escape from your life,” he said. “You get to be entirely immersed in a story for two hours. And during those two hours, I assure you that my staff and myself will ensure that you’re safe.”

Senior writer Kristen Fiore can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5270, or kristen.fiore@thevillagesmedia.com.

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