MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As COVID restrictions are loosened across the state, entertainment venues are among those getting ready to reopen.

Beginning Monday, movie theaters can open at 25% capacity. Masks will be required and food service has to end by 10:00. But some say, that’s a good start.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Tom Letness.

As owner of Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, Letness wasn’t expecting to have restrictions loosened quite yet. Now, he’s getting ready to welcome movie-goers back to his 95-year-old theater. With the new rules he could have up to 70 mask-wearing customers inside.

“You can sit together if you are with someone and not socially distancing yourself. But our goal is if you don’t know anyone make sure you are socially distanced from them,” said Letness.

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Before the latest shutdown, Letness said his theater was doing well by playing classic movies since there was a shortage of new releases. If numbers improve, he’s hoping to get things back where they were in 2019, which was a blockbuster year for business.

“The truth is people do want to go out. They want to go and be with other people. You can cook at home but you go out to restaurants,” said Letness.

While Heights Theater plans to re-open in a few weeks, St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis said they’ll wait a few months for new movies to come out.

“I’ve received many posts and messages saying, hey, we can’t wait until you reopen but we are glad you are still closed because they want it to be safe,” said Elliot Schofield.

Schofield is the general manager at St. Anthony Main, which has five screens. He said they’re at the mercy of Hollywood: hoping that the film industry will give theaters first dibs when they reopen and avoid releasing movies directly to streaming services. He said that’s a ticket both sides have to buy into.

“We, the movie theater industry, we generate their revenue for them. They aren’t going to make nearly as much money with streaming services at $10 a month or whatever it’s going to be. They kind of need us,” said Schofield.

Elliott said they are hoping to re-open by April and will use next, few months to do renovations inside.

Heights Theater is planning to re-open by the end of January.

John Lauritsen