You can’t move far in the Farmington Civic Theater lobby without finding a bottle of hand sanitizer.
The City of Farmington’s iconic movie house reopened two weeks ago, after closing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Theaters and other entertainment venues have been the last to reopen under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s phased MI Safe Start Plan.
On Monday, Farmington city council members approved a $64,000 loan to the theater. Generally, the Civic is self-supporting, but city manager David Murphy said its fund balance bottomed out on August 1.
Theater manager Scott Freeman came up with some revenue-generating ideas during the closure, including movie rentals from home and popcorn sales during the week. But operating expenses run about $8,000 a month.
The 3-year loan at 1 percent interest “is to help them get on their feet and make it through the rest of the year,” Murphy said. “They are starting to receive some revenue coming in, and hopefully that will grow.”
Tickets can be purchased either at the theater or online. Advance tickets come via email with a code that’s scanned either at the box office or the refreshments counter. The ability to pay with a credit card swipe makes for a touchless experience.
For safety’s sake, containers of salt and flavored popcorn toppings have been removed, as has a container that keeps water bottles chilled. Bottles are now brought to the counter as needed.
As required by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) orders, reduced capacities in both auditoriums have left 54 seats downstairs and 26 upstairs. Every other row of seats is closed, marked with upside down drink cups in cupholders.
“Although we’re selling seats as open admission,” Freeman said, “we’re telling people to leave two seats empty with their party… creating a pod. There’s plenty of room out there for people to spread out.”
Options still remain for patrons in wheelchairs to sit with companions, he added.
Patrons will notice a difference in the films shown at the Civic as well, with some newer releases that have not had wide distribution. For example, “Henchmen,” an animated flick with some big-name voices, isn’t even rated because it was planned for release on home-streaming platforms.
Freeman said the theater’s booking agent “did a good job finding movies for us.” Also showing this weekend are “Tulsa,” a faith-based film about an alcoholic biker who discovers he has a nine-year-old daughter, and “Ava,” an R-rated action thriller.