Burlington’s Roxy among theaters hoping for post-pandemic comeback

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 4:33 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - When was the last time you went to the movies? Merrill’s Roxy Cinema in Burlington on Friday was among several theaters statewide opening their doors for the first showings in over 15 months.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: Do you remember the last movie you saw in a theater?

Kiwan Lee: It’s too long ago. No, I don’t remember at all.

“I haven’t seen a movie in over a year-and-a-half and I wanted to see “Cruella,” said Melani Vega of South Burlington.

Film fans were thrilled to be buying tickets -- and of course snacks -- and sitting back to watch a movie on the big screen at Merril’s Roxy Cinema Friday.

“Of course I’m a big movie person. I’m very anxious to get back in the theater,” said Jennie Cernosia of Williston.

“I have been stuck in my room forever so I think it’s just fresh,” Lee said.

The Roxy’s screens have been dark since March 2020. “It’s been over 15 months and these theaters have been totally empty. We have been helping with the pandemic by not opening,” said the theater’s Merrill Jarvis. He equates the return of the silver screen with the state’s COVID comeback. “The governor opened the state to 100%, now my theaters are open 100%.

Other movie theaters, like the Essex Cinemas, have been open for months. Owner Peter Edelman says it’s been unusual to have social distancing and limited capacity, along with a dearth of new movies. “Combination of no product and the COVID situation, but we felt it was important, or I felt it was important to stay open,” he said. With the Hollywood distribution spigot opening and full capacity, Edelman says it will bring more people in the door. “It’s going to be a function of product.”

Despite the past year’s surge in streaming, Jarvis still believes there is an appetite for the theater. “They said that we were going to go out of business when Betamax and VHS came on the market, they said movies were going to go out when DVDs came out in the market -- we are still here,” he said. Jarvis says the big-screen experience will keep people coming back. “People need that sense of feeling the same emotions with other people in a theater - you can’t get that at home.

We asked theatergoers how they felt about getting back into a closed, indoor space with strangers. They all said that it’s a sign of being back to normal

The Welden Theater in St. Alban also opened its doors Friday.

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