By Jondi Gumz
The movies are playing at the Capitola CineLux again after four months of COVID-19 shutdown, and opening March 26 at the Scotts Valley CineLux.
“I can’t tell you how happy we are to be opening,” Paul Gunsky, CineLux president, told the Times.
Capitola CineLux opened March 12 after Santa Cruz County moved from the state’s Purple Tier, which is the most restrictive for business, into the Red Tier, which allows theater operation with restrictions.
The response from the community has been “really gratifying,” Gunsky said. “It’s so nice to see guests come back.”
He’s invested in air filtration, Plexiglass barriers and auditorium sanitization for COVID safety but those who buy a ticket online will find the price is the same as before the pandemic, $10.75 general admission, $8.50 for kids 3-12 and adults 55 and up.
Concessions will have “welcome back” prices: $5 popcorn.
He said the movies coming out now are “higher quality,” like the epic action film, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which reportedly cost between $160 million to $200 million to make.
As for employees, Gunsky said, “We rehired everyone who wanted to come back.”
He’s not at pre-pandemic staffing but he hopes to ramp up.
Movie-goers used to a crowded auditorium can expect a different experience, as state guidelines for the Red Tier — which the county has been in for three weeks — limit capacity to 25 percent.
In Capitola, up to eight people are allowed in the 40-seat auditorium.
“It’s perfect for a family,” Gunsky said.
Something new — it wasn’t offered prior to the pandemic — is a private watch party, which in Capitola has been “very, very popular,” he added.
Booking can be made online at www.CineLuxTheatres.com
In Scotts Valley, the auditoriums are larger, about 100 seats, so private rentals can be for up to 20 people.
In wake of the November COVID shutdown, his theaters pivoted to selling concessions.
The strategy to stay connected with patrons proved “very popular at both theaters. A lot of people came to support us,” he said, gratified to hear words of encouragement.
In these challenging times, “you do what you can to get back,” Gunsky said.
He had to be patient because his order for MERV 13 air filters, recommended to prevent spread of minuscule infectious virus particles, was waitlisted. Hospitals, schools and universities are all upgrading – and MERV 12 or 13 will not do the job.
If the county moves into the Orange Tier March 30, movie theaters are allowed to increase capacity to 50 percent, but Gunsky said he might not be able to reach that number because of the social distancing rules.
He’s watched the number of new COVID cases and hospitalizations slow to a trickle.
“We’re cautiously optimistic those numbers stay down,” he said.
Staying Safe at CineLux
Here are the CineLux policies for COVID safety:
- Masks Required: Our employees must wear a face covering or mask. Patrons must wear a face covering at all times. Those unwilling to wear a face covering will be denied entry.
- Social Distancing: Appropriate physical distancing must be maintained at all times between patrons, except members of the same household or those attending together.
- Staggered Show Times: This reduces crowding in the lobby, restrooms and provides easier exiting.
- Reduced Capacity: We have reduced our auditorium’s capacity to 25%. In addition we have blocked off every other row and our ticketing system will ensure spacing on either side of your selected seats.
- Air Filtration: Our HVAC systems are cycled continuously with fresh filtered air. Our HVAC systems have been equipped with MERV 13 air filters, the highest rated, which filter out virus carriers.
- Frequent Hand-Washing: Employees are trained on hand-hygiene practices, and are required to wash hands frequently at easily-accessible hand-washing stations.
- Hand Sanitizer: Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (EPA approved ethanol or isopropyl) will be liberally placed throughout the theater, including either at your auditorium entrance or inside the auditorium.
- Enhanced Cleaning: Auditoriums are disinfected between movie screenings using an EPA-approved disinfectant. High-touch surfaces are wiped down periodically with EPA-registered disinfectant.
- Employee Health Training and Screening: Our employees are trained on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Staff members will have their temperature checked and a health screening at the start of their shift.
- Modified Concessions: We encourage credit cards or contactless payments. Condiments are provided directly to guests. Guests will be provided a new container for refills on large popcorns and large fountain drinks.
- Mobile Ticketing: Tickets sales are available online to reduce the need to stand in line for tickets. Guests can simply display their mobile tickets upon entry.
- Personal Protection: Plexiglass barriers have been placed at guest service stations.