Going back to the movies at Camana Bay Cinema

Going back to the movies at Camana Bay Cinema

"I feel there is no substitute for going out to the movies. There is nothing like it."
Those are the words of famed American film director, producer and screenwriter Steven Spielberg, who was not just speaking about seeing a movie, but also about the multi-sensory experience of seeing one at the cinema. 

What makes going to the movies so special are things like the smell of freshly popped corn, indulging in the tastes of cinema treats, hearing — and feeling — the full sound of a film and seeing it on a big screen, the way motion pictures are really supposed to be viewed. Whether it's a family outing, date night or a relaxing solo venture, going to the movies is a uniquely satisfying event that most of us have enjoyed in our lives.

For more than three months, however, Grand Cayman residents could not go to the movies because of the restrictions imposed by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That changed on 3 July when Camana Bay Cinema reopened.

Safety first
When the cinema reopened, social distancing guidelines required guests not from the same household to remain at least 6 feet apart, even while sitting in the auditoriums. That meant implementing several new processes with regard to seating. To maintain 6 feet of social distancing, only every other row of seats could be used, and with each booking by a single person, couple or household, three seats to either side had to be left vacant. In addition, all aisle seats are left vacant.

"We weren't required to leave the aisle seats vacant, but with the amount of people walking by those seats, we thought it would be best practice," says Cinema Manager Corey Randolph. "We want people to come to the cinema with their significant other or with their whole family and have the peace of mind that they'll be safe, with at least three seats on either side of them blocked out."

The new seating arrangements required reservations for all seats at the cinema. Prior to the March COVID-19 closure, reserved seats were available only in the VIP auditorium. 
"Everything is reserved seating now and it's going to stay that way," says Randolph. "We were going to do that this year anyway, so COVID just moved that forward."

The required COVID-19 social distancing seating arrangements have necessitated changes to the cinema's point-of-sale system, which is linked to the online reservation system operated by Fandango. At the same time, a new version of the point-of-sale software was installed.

"The new version really simplifies a lot of our processes," says Randolph, adding that the COVID-19 closure was the perfect time to implement the change. 
"Normally, these kinds of changes would have to be done between the hours of midnight and 10 a.m., which would mean sleepless nights for me," he said. "COVID gave us an opportunity to upgrade and test the new system with me working from home during the day."

The Camana Bay Cinema has also introduced some other safety protocols, like staggering the start times of films to reduce the number of people in the lobby at any one time and increasing the time between movies to allow staff to better clean the auditorium and disinfect touch points inside. 

Social distancing is also required in the Cinema lobby. Although this is fairly easy to manage in the ticket/concessions line, Randolph says it initially proved problematic for those waiting for food orders. 

"We ended up creating a separate line for food pickup, where you wait in a line while social distancing until your number is called," Randolph says.
As another safety precaution, all self-serve condiments have been removed and are now given to customers in separate containers. 

The COVID-19 safety precautions haven't changed the menu, though.

"Everything we offered before is available," says Randolph. "You can still get your candy, your popcorn, your pizza, your French fries or anything else on the menu."

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Camana Bay Cinema is getting new movies to show. Many of the highly anticipated spring and summer films — like the new James Bond film, "No Time to Die," "Wonder Woman 1984," "Top Gun: Maverick" and Marvel's "Black Widow" have had their release pushed back until later this year.

As a result, Randolph says the film choices are limited.

"We still had the movies we closed down with, like 'Bad Boys for Life,' and we've been able add a couple of new releases like 'My Spy,'" he says.

In addition, the cinema had already received and licensed several films for its Classics at the Cinema and Kids Club features, so it has been running those as regular features.
Until a steady stream of new releases starts coming, the Camana Bay Cinema will air a lot of older movies. 

"We've looked at which of the Classics and Kids Club films worked the best, and those are some of the kinds of films we're getting," Randolph says. "We're also getting some film series like Back to the Future and the Matrix Trilogy."

This article will appear in the August 2020 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline "Going back to the movies."

About the author

Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for three years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 16 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. An avid baseball fan, Alan loves travelling but also schedules trips back home around catching a summer game or two with his home team, Cleveland Indians.

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