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Movies return to Washington

By STEVE BARNES

Washington Daily News

 

When the screen went dark after the final credits from the Christian romantic drama “I Still Believe” back in March, nobody in the audience knew they wouldn’t return to the Golden Ticket Cinema in Washington for seven months.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Bad Boys for Life” would have to suffice in the interim. COVID-19 was the culprit, more like the rock in Charlie Brown’s Christmas stocking than the golden ticket Charlie Bucket found to admit him to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

The seven screens will come back to life this weekend as the Golden Ticket announced its reopening a week after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said it was OK for movie theaters across the state to show films again.

“It’s been a long seven months since we closed March 19,” general manager Jeni Maldonado said. “We knew the closing was going to happen soon; we just didn’t know the exact day. Movies are a big part of summer, and it was sad to miss all that, but we are excited to be back in business this weekend.”

Maldonado and her assistant tried to stay on customers’ radar by promoting the drive-thru sale of popcorn and drinks on social media almost every weekend all summer. A chance to go to the movies — but not really.

“We sold a lot of popcorn and had a chance to get to know our regular customers, which was nice,” Maldonado said. “It was great to see the support we have and gave us a new appreciation for our moviegoers.”

The Washington theater is one of seven owned by Durham-based Golden Ticket Cinemas. Locations around the country range from Butte, Montana, to Dubois, Pennsylvania, with three more locations in South Dakota, Nebraska and Mississippi set to open soon.

The local staff went through a test run last weekend, and Maldonado said they are ready to welcome back patrons Friday.

“We have several safety protocols in place,” she said. “Everyone has to wear a mask unless they are eating or drinking, and we are blocking off every other row.  There will be two or three seats in the same row between parties. Of course, families can sit together, but there will be space between separate groups. We have hand-sanitizing stations in the lobby and markers on the floor to show people how to stand six feet apart. We will also be constantly cleaning high traffic areas like the concession stand and bathrooms.”

The theater will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for now, and Maldonado hopes to bring back furloughed staffers as operating hours expand. For now, she said her assistant will run the concession stand while she handles the box office so there is a smaller chance of cross-contamination.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to give our customers a safe, entertaining movie-going experience,” she said. “We are hoping for a big weekend, business-wise, because we think people want a break from thinking about COVID, and we offer that escape.”

Movies on tap for the re-opening weekend include “Tenet,” “Unhinged,” “The War With Grandpa” and “The New Mutants,” all of which were made in 2020.

For more information, call 252-940-5656. Golden Ticket Cinemas is located at 1109 W. 15th St., Washington.

Maldonado encourages movie goers to visit cinemasafe.org to learn more about safety protocols at the theater.