On a seemingly ordinary Wednesday evening in March last year, O Cinema unknowingly waved goodbye to the last in-person patron the South Beach theater would see for a full year.
The movie theater was already planning to close its doors amid reports of the coronavirus pandemic. It made the official announcement on a Thursday morning on Instagram: “In an abundance of caution for our patrons and staff and at the recommendation made to cultural organizations by local officials, O Cinema South Beach will close as of March 12th until further notice.”
Further notice turned out to be more than a year.
Now the arthouse theater is gearing up to open its doors once again to the general public beginning Friday, March 19.
“It’s almost like coming home,” co-director Vivian Marthell tells New Times. “Reopening to the public allows us to do what we love: create those connections with the community and share what we do in real life as opposed to virtual screens.”
The return to in-person screenings comes with a slew of new safety measures. For starters, the theater is making a big push for moviegoers to purchase tickets — and even concessions — in advance via its website. Theater seats will be blocked around prepurchased seats to help with social distancing. And, of course, facemasks will be required at all times (unless eating).
Temperature checks will be conducted upon arrival, and sanitizing stations have been placed throughout the space. Also, expect plenty of signage and reels reminding guests about the safety protocols in place.
“We’re ticking all the boxes and making sure that everybody is safe,” Marthell says.
The first film playing for two weeks at the theater is the Oscar-nominated film The Father, starring Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins. Marthell says additional programming is still being planned and cemented, but audiences can expect future offerings to include other Oscar nominees.
“We want to allow people the ability to watch these films that are up for Academy Awards, so we’ll select from that kind of repertoire,” she says. “Also coming up are the Oscar Shorts, which we screen every year.”
Despite being unable to welcome film lovers to theater throughout the last year, O Cinema never stopped sharing their love of movies with patrons. Immediately after closing, they began posting film recommendations online, and shortly after that launched Virtual Cinema.
“We were fortunate enough to pivot almost immediately,” Marthell explains. “All the steps were in place from distributor to exhibitor to proceed with the least amount of friction, and we were able to engage with people in a new virtual space.”
Marthell says O Cinema plans to continue offering virtual screenings for the foreseeable future for those patrons who still wish to see films at home.
“We are now quite literally stepping into the new normal," she says. “Everybody has been talking about it, but this is it. We’re going to see where it leads.”
O Cinema South Beach. 1130 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 786-471-3269; o-cinema.org.
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