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New guidelines allow movie theaters to reopen in Oregon's 'extreme risk' counties

Theaters and other indoor entertainment venues are limited to a maximum of six people at a time starting Friday.

If you're ready to start going to the movie theaters again, you might have the theater almost all to yourself in 25 of Oregon's 36 counties.

New guidelines released earlier in the week allow for up to six people to be inside of indoor entertainment and recreation venues at one time.

A press release from Gov. Kate Brown's office said buildings with at least 500 square feet can have a maximum of six people, while buildings smaller than 500 square feet can only have one person.

Since March, movie theaters have been mostly closed. Marquees out front that normally display what movie is playing instead show messages of thanks, hope and solidarity.

"We sell concessions to-go currently. That's how we're staying open. That's how we're keeping our doors open." said Jeff Martin, owner of Joy Cinema and Pub in Tigard.

"The last time we showed a movie to the public was in March. March 16th." Martin said.

RELATED: Most of Oregon still sits in 'Extreme Risk' category

Martin said he won't be opening his cinema on Friday, Jan. 29, the day the new regulations take effect. He said he doesn't have a movie to show on such short notice and it's not financially worth it.

"It's ridiculous and I don't want to be too negative. We really want to do the right things in terms of keeping people safe and keeping distant and making sure they wear masks and all that. Six people does us no good at all," Martin said.

Theaters pay the movie companies a fee to show their movie to the public, essentially renting it. The price of a ticket covers that cost if a theater sells enough. Concessions is where a theater makes its money.

McMenamin's owns multiple music venues and theaters around the Portland area and said in an e-mail to KGW News that, "The new guidelines do not allow for indoor food and beverage in the theaters or music venues therefore we are not planning to open any of these venues at this time."

In Southeast Portland, it's been a rough year for Clinton Street Theater's owner, Lani Jo Leigh.

RELATED: ‘Extreme risk’ counties in Oregon can have limited indoor activities starting Friday, Gov. Brown says

"We're basically just holding on and trying to put together our pennies and bills paid until we can open again, which maybe looks like this is the year. Maybe, I hope," Leigh said.

She said her cinema will not reopen on Friday because the theater is undergoing renovations for the next couple weeks.

When it does reopen, the limited number of tickets she can sell won't cover the cost of the fee to show the movie.

"For only allowing 6 people, who are used to paying $5-$8 for a ticket, it doesn't add up to have to pay the distributor $250," Leigh said.

Steve Herring, CEO of Living Room Theaters, agrees it doesn't make financial sense to open, but went on to say that his theater will reopen.

In an e-mail, he wrote, "Allowing even small groups of people to experience movies once again falls in line with our core mission of providing an entertaining, informing and social experience for our local community in Portland. That's especially important in downtown."

The governor's office said it is working with the Oregon Health Authority to finalize the details of the new regulations and will release them before they take effect.

As to why the number six? That's a question many gym owners, movie theater owners and restaurant owners have asked.

A spokesperson from the governor's office replied to that question saying, "We have heard from many small businesses (gyms, youth recreation and other types of personal fitness) that reopening indoor operations in at least some fashion would help them get through until their counties improve their risk levels."

RELATED: 'It feels like a big slap in the face': Gym owners argue Oregon's new regulations aren't sustainable

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