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SLO County movie theaters, gyms reopen—with changes

California is giving the green light for movie theaters and gyms to reopen as of June 12, but not all businesses will be ready. KCBX News spoke to local gym and movie theater owners to find out what the hold up is and what it’ll be like for customers once doors reopen.

California’s thumbs up to allow movie theaters to reopen this weekend doesn’t necessarily mean most theaters will.

Cineworld, which owns Regal theaters in Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria, expects all of its theaters to reopen in July.

The owner of Park/Central Coast Cinemas in Paso Robles, John Roush, is also planning a July reopening—for a specific reason. He says distributors held most of their blockbusters back to release in summer, and that’s why most movie theaters won’t open until those films are out.

“The first picture we have that is brand new is July 1 and that’s ‘Unhinged' from the new Solstice Studios,” Roush said.

After that, Warner Bros. Pictures' ‘Tenet’ will be released July 17, and then Disney's ‘Mulan’ in August, so Roush said movie theaters will probably be playing older movies to get people to come in.

“We are considering ‘Independence Day,’ ‘Avatar,’ ‘E.T.’...things that people might, especially young people, have never had the option to see in a motion picture theater,” Roush said.

Your theater experience will also be a lot more roomy, since movie theaters will have to limit capacity to only 25 percent of normal capacity, or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

“Every other row will be kept empty, so people are six feet a part,” Roush said. “Then we’ll have seats [in] between, which will be blocked off so people don’t sit by strangers.”

Roush said while most people probably streamed movies while sheltering at home, he’s not worried about people not returning to the cinemas.

“People love the movies, that’s all there is to it,” Roush said. “It’s a social event to go to the theaters and watch it on the big screen. You can’t get that experience at home. Comedies are funnier in a theater, scary movies are more scary. I’m expecting we will recapture that audience.”

Gyms can also begin reopening as of June 12. Owner of San Luis Obispo’s Athlon Fitness and Performance—Ryan Joiner—says right now gyms are just trying to sort out the rules and guidelines to do so. “It’s like a big puzzle, and the anxiety would be partly excitement, to figure out a new strategy and a new way to do this, to rearrange the facility,” Joiner said. “It’s a lot of work.”

Joiner said that’s exactly what he and other gym owners are doing—moving equipment, training staff on new cleaning policies, and getting through the paperwork with the county. He says a bigger challenge is that they have to change the environment most people enjoy going to a fitness center for.

“In the end it’s almost simple, just keep everybody six feet apart,” Joiner said. “But in a fitness environment that has never had to do that? In fact, that’s kind-of the fitness world. There’s a lot of cheerleading, and rah-rah and comradery, and high-fiving...and now we are actually having to ask everyone to stay away from each other.”

Joiner said when he reopens on June 15, there will be space between equipment to maintain social distance, separate entrance and exit doors, and his staff will be having to sanitize each equipment between uses.

But after months of closure, Joiner said he knows people are aching to get back into their workout routines.

“People have been waiting long enough, and we’ve been waiting long enough,”Joiner said. “We’ve done everything to make sure the precautions are taken, to make sure it's as safe as possible and we are going to move forward.”

As the state relaxes its stay-at-home orders, California's businesses are racing to adjust to the necessary changes to re-open.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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