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Reopening day at the Palm Theatre draws an enthusiastic crowd after more than a year of closure

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Tessa Hughes
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The three films currently being shown at the Palm Theatre are “Dream Horse,” “The Truffle Hunters” and “The Burnt Orange Heresy.”";s:3:"uri";

The Palm Theatre, located in downtown San Luis Obispo, officially reopened May 21 after a 14-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The line wrapped around the building, as San Luis Obispo residents eagerly waited to see one of the three movies currently being shown at SLO’s independent theater.

But since San Luis Obispo entered the orange tier of the state’s color-coded reopening system in April, theaters such as the Palm have had the opportunity to open with limited capacity.

Despite being able to open last month, the Palm’s Owner Jim Dee wanted to wait a little bit longer to make sure once they reopened, they would stay open.

“I think we're looking pretty good, so we felt that today we can open limited capacity and we will just continue to monitor the situation 'cause we don't want any spikes,” Dee said. “I know a number of theater owners that open and close, open and close a number of times and I don't want to open and close so I'm thinking we can open now and stay open.”

Currently, the Palm Theatre is allowing 110 to 120 movie goers in at a time and everyone is required to wear masks. The staff is also fully vaccinated.

Local residents, such as Jack Harris, are excited to see the theater back up and running, since the Palm offers a selection of movies that other theaters don’t.

“It was our preeminent theater, you know, the one we enjoy going to the most and [Dee’s] choice of movies fits our personalities pretty well,” Harris said.

Harris is also a friend of Dee's and wanted to go to opening day to show his support, since he had heard of the “pain” Dee had been going through while the Palm was closed.

“He has to fight for everything,” Harris said. “This town doesn't know what's going on, they got a taste of what it's like not to have him because of COVID, but he is a very unique person in this theater world.”

Other than wanting to show support for his friend, Harris also missed the experience of seeing films in person.

“Seeing a movie in an environment that everybody else is enthusiastic, you know, it's a social thing again,” Harris said.

Socializing is the same reason fellow San Luis Obispo resident Jan Noll decided to see the film “Dream Horse” on opening night.

“My husband says, ‘Why do we want to go to the theater? We have a big theater at home.’ I said ‘because I want to get out, I want to go downtown.’ So yeah, we are totally excited. We love the Palm,” Noll said.

Noll even got there early to ensure that she would get tickets, since the theater is operating at limited capacity.

Dee said he really appreciates the support from community members to keep the Palm alive.

“Thanks for San Luis Obispo County for, you know, supporting us and hopefully you'll come back and we will create the safe environment, so they'll feel comfortable watching a movie,” Dee said.

Right now, the three films being shown at the theater are “Dream Horse,” “The Truffle Hunters” and “The Burnt Orange Heresy.” The Palm opens every day, except for Tuesdays, 30 minutes before the first showtime.

For more information about specific showing times, visit the Palm Theatre’s website.

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