Nova Scotia

Sydney theatre's reopening plan includes screening movies to family bubbles

A Sydney, N.S., theatre company is reopening with in-house movie nights that will show feature films for one family bubble at a time.

Nova Scotia's chief medical officer recently greenlit the Sydney stage's idea

When the Highland Arts Theatre reopens June 10, patrons will immediately be ushered to a washroom to scrub themselves. Workers at the theatre will wear masks and gloves. (Holly Conners/CBC)

A Sydney, N.S., theatre company is reopening with in-house movie nights.

The Highland Arts Theatre was one of many businesses forced to change operational plans because of restrictions put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Highland Arts Theatre will be showing feature films for one family bubble at a time.

Welsey Colford, the theatre's artistic and executive director, said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, recently greenlit movie nights.

Under normal circumstances, Colford said operating the theatre for fewer than 10 people made no financial sense, but drastic times called for drastic measures.

'We had to get creative'

"Generating any form of revenue is better than generating no revenue," Colford said. "We had to get creative."

It has been nearly three months since any patrons walked through the theatre's doors. Most shows were cancelled or postponed because of the virus.

"Almost all our operations are funded through events. Now, we need to be creative with health and safety protocols that are in place," Colford said.

A night at the theatre with a bubble family will start with patrons immediately being ushered to a washroom to scrub themselves. Workers at the theatre will wear masks and gloves.

Popcorn and a drink will be provided to each guest. Families or couples will select what movie they want to watch.

"You can't beat a night out," Colford said. "I think there's something exciting about a little bit of prestige that will attract people."

Welsey Colford, Highland Arts Theatre's artistic and executive director, says the original Star Wars movies are some of the movie options patrons can choose.

The cost to have the theatre to yourself is $150, with Colford calling it a great way to see classic films like The Princess Bride or the original Star Wars movies.

According to Colford, the best type of movie to watch during a quarantine is "anything with adventure or hope."

"Any of these blockbusters are so much better when enjoying with your family in an upscale viewing experience," Colford said.

Although some public health restrictions have been lifted, Colford said having a night away from home watching a movie can help people break away from the constant COVID-19 dread.

'A good start'

Once a few showings are eventually booked, Colford said the next step is expanding viewings or eventually getting plays back on stage.

"It's not going to pay the bills, but it's a good start," Colford said.

Based on conversations with public health officials, expanding the number of patrons at a showing looks possible, and Colford hopes to slowly welcome more guests.

In Nova Scotia, any workplace, business or organization that isn't deemed essential can remain open as long as a two-metre distance can be maintained.

Cary Elwes and Robin Wright star in the beloved 1987 film classic, The Princess Bride. (Act III Communications)

The theatre's first available booking is June 10, which just happens to be the theatre's sixth anniversary.

"We only had about six people in the audience for our first performance in 2014," Colford said. "It's a fitting way to commemorate the occasion."

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