SOUTH VENICE — For those who need a break from being cloistered at home during this ongoing pandemic, the B&B Theatre in Venice may offer one of the safest options.
The movie theater will reopen seven of its 11 theater spaces Thursday night.
It is the only movie theater opened south of South Sarasota and north of Fort Myers.
Nothing remains of the old Franks Theatre, which B&B purchased more than a year ago.
New vinyl flooring in the lobby and theaters will be far easier to keep clean than the old carpeting and the leather reclining seats with table tops to hold drinks and snacks are equally easy to keep clean.
To make sure, the time between films will go from 20 minutes to 45 minutes so that every surface can be cleaned, including each of the leather chairs which will be sprayed with disinfectant. New air filtration systems are yet another touch in every area of the venue.
“We are even putting a new roof on the theater,” Theater manager Brett Zornes said as sounds came from the work going on above Tuesday.
Inside, in addition to replacing all the flooring and resurfacing every wall, the new electrically operated reclining leather seating have been installed in seven of the theaters.
“Because we were closed so long, the remaining four theaters are still empty,” Zornes said.
The largest theater space has 103 seats and the smallest about 50. The rows of seats are 7 feet apart which is one foot farther than the social distancing suggestion of 6 feet.
Social distancing between patrons will be maintained by leaving two empty seats between parties.
Seats are selected when one purchases tickets, which can be done online or at the theater.
While the box office is also all new with television monitors displaying film information and the like, because of the ongoing pandemic, tickets will be sold either online or inside the lobby at the concession stand.
That, too, is different. The counter on the right of the lobby is gone.
In its place, are new high-top tables and chairs where movie goers can sit and enjoy their refreshments, including adult beverages and some limited made to order menu items which can be purchased from the new bar at the back of the lobby.
The traditional concession stand is to the left at the rear of the lobby, about where the old one was but separated from the new bar.
Opposite the traditional concession stand is a third counter. Take your container of popcorn there, select the salt flavor of your choice and add as many butter calories as you like.
“Some people like to come early and enjoy a beverage and popcorn and then refill the popcorn before going in to see the movie,” Zornes said.
They can do that at the high top tables or, they go into the space once occupied by electronic games. Now twice as large, that area has been outfitted with comfortable seating and a large-screen television. With the extra cleaning time built into the film schedule, these waiting areas are likely to be well used. Social distancing has been considered in each area.
Two of the films being shown on opening night are “The War With Grandpa” featuring Robert DeNiro and “Let Him Go,” featuring Kevin Costner.
Masks are required of everyone, employees and patrons.
Mask must be worn at all times unless one is eating or drinking, Zornes, said. Frequent hand-washing is encouraged for employees and patrons. Several hand sanitizers are placed throughout the theater.
Tickets for retro films are $8.99 for adults and $6 for children, seniors and Rewards members. New releases are $9.99 for adults and $7.99 for the other categories, he said. There is a booking fee for online selection of seats plus tax.
Longtime patrons of the theater might recognize former employees. They were given preference for the jobs in the all-new facility.
B&B is the country’s sixth largest theater chain. It dates to 1924 when Elmer Bills Sr, purchased a theater in Salisbury, Mo. and eventually met and married the theater’s piano player during that era of silent pictures. In 1936, he hired Sterling Bagby who would start a traveling movie theater company.
Eventually, in 1980 the Bagby and Bills families merged their two companies into B&B Theatres.
The company employs about 2,100 employees at 48 locations. The newest and cleanest B&B Theatre in the U.S. is at 2111 South Tamiami Trail at Alligator in South Venice.
To check showtimes, schedule, prices and purchase tickets, visit: bbtheatres.com and select Venice. Those interested in showtimes in the Venice location can also call 941-202-6561.
Beginning Friday, the theater will add daytime showings.