BELFAST — After a 15-month intermission, the Colonial Theatre reopened June 18. Co-owner Terese Bagnardi said due to the pandemic, March 15, 2020, was the last day the theater was open to the public.

Operating at a 50% capacity to allow room for patrons to spread out and requiring masks until people are seated are just a few of the pandemic-related changes the Colonial has implemented.

Working the booth at Colonial Theatre June 18, Jen Kirchoff greets moviegoers. Fran Gonzalez

Patrons will also find plexiglass shields and credit card machines at the concession stand, touchless faucets in the bathrooms and a new air circulation system to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In order to protect customers, employees and others who may be vulnerable, she said, all staff at the theater are vaccinated. “I think that is important.” Because of COVID-19, she said, the film times are also staggered 20 minutes apart. “We are trying it out to avoid the craze of people,” she said.

On Friday, June 18, Bagnardi said she and the theater staff were taking bets on how many people would attend their first night in over a year. “I said 40, some were saying 70, Mike said less than 20,” she said. “We don’t know, but the winner gets a cup of coffee.”

The iconic Perry’s Nut House elephant on top of the theater, was seen this spring with a mask, but Bagnardi noted, “We’ve taken it off now.”

Since the venue went dark, she said, patrons have been able to stream movies through its website with selections offered by its distribution company. “It wasn’t vastly profitable,” she said, but it was a way to continue to offer something.

Bagnardi said the theater originally opened in April 1912, the same month the Titanic set sail.

She and her husband, co-owner Mike Hurley, purchased the theater in 1995 and did a considerable amount of work restructuring the available space, creating the back theater known as “Dreamland” by tunneling through the lower level, and splitting up the upper level into two separate viewing rooms.

From left, Kyle Walton, operations manager at the Colonial Theatre; Lincoln Byrer, 5, of Jackson; Lincoln’s grandfather, Charlie Murphy, of Baltimore; Tom McCord of Winterport; and theater owner Mike Hurley, June 18 at Colonial Theatre. Fran Gonzalez

One of the first people to enter the theater on Friday, Tom McCord of Winterport, said he has been coming to the theater since 1993. It is a focal point for Belfast, he said, and called the reopening “an important step.” This is the destination for many kids going out, getting a bite to eat, then popping over to see the latest movie. “I love it (the Colonial),” he said. 

The concession stand at Colonial Theatre, June 18, now with plexiglass and touchless credit card machines.

Hurley said in a theater press release, “The movies are back and we are completely excited to be welcoming native Kyle Walton as our manager, opening our doors and putting films back on screen. There are so many great movies lining up in every genre and we just can’t wait to welcome the people back inside. We’ll see you at the movies.”

Currently playing are “Nomadland,” “Raya” and “Godzilla vs. King Kong” through June 24. “A Quiet Place part II” will run through July 1 and upcoming movies include the latest installment of the Fast and Furious franchise, “F9,” and “In the Heights” by Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame, beginning June 25.

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