Villages movie theaters reopen today

Jacob LaCourse, an assistant manager at the Old Mill Playhouse, tapes off chairs to allow social distancing.

Barnstorm Theater’s assistant manager Alex Mills joked that he knows a lot of Villagers have golfed as much as they could golf and now they just want to get inside and watch a movie. And starting today, they can. While Spanish Springs’ Rialto Theatre is still in the midst of renovation, Lake Sumter Landing’s Old Mill Playhouse and Brownwood’s Barnstorm Theater open to the public after a three-month hiatus amid coronavirus concerns. Deborah Mills, operations director of The Villages Movie Theaters, said that the safety of the patrons is her No. 1 concern. As of now, the movie theaters will open at 25% capacity with seats blocked off to maintain social distancing, Deborah said. An usher will be assigned to every auditorium to ensure that people are seated appropriately. Employees will wear masks, and markers have been pasted to the floors to keep people in line a safe distance apart.

While concessions will be open, Old Mill Playhouse’s Lazy Mac’s Taco Shack will not reopen until Tuesday.

Alex said that in preparation for reopening, the theaters have been sanitized from top to bottom.

This week’s movie lineup includes a mix of films that were popular in The Villages such as “Book Club” and “La La Land,” children’s movies such as “Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island” for kids who are visiting their grandparents and new releases including “The Grizzlies,” “Sometimes Always Never” and “Becky.”

For a limited time, all movies will be $5.

For a list of movies and showtimes, visit thevillagestheaters.com.

Deborah said she is working to get event cinema offerings like the Global Masterworks in Cinema program back soon.

“It’s just a matter of getting in touch with everyone around the world and seeing if they’re up for it,” Deborah said.

While the other two theaters were closed, renovations continued for Rialto Theatre, but the process was slowed down a bit, Deborah said.

“It’s an extensive renovation,” she said. “It’s going to be amazing.”

Patti Church, of the Village of Summerhill, said she is thrilled that the movie theaters are reopening.

“I know there will be reduced attendance, but I’m just looking forward to it and I’m not at all worried,” Church said. “We love to go to the movie theater. I enjoy movies and I’m anxious for life to return to normal.”

Deborah said that while streaming has been a popular entertainment choice while movie theaters were closed, some movies are just better on the big screen.

Just like people can cook meals at home, they still want to go out to a restaurant sometimes. The same can be said for movies and movie theaters, Deborah added.

“The industry might change and expand and have different content, but I think it’s always here to stay,” Deborah said. “You can watch a movie at home, but unless you have the resources to have the sound and the soundproofing walls, and the screen and the lighting, you can miss the scope and depth of the movie.”

Deborah added that she wants patrons to know that when they’re ready to come out, the Villages Movie Theaters will be ready to serve them.

Alex offered similar insight.

“I just want patrons to leave their problems, come here and have a nice, positive movie experience,” he said.

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