Boulevard Cinemas Reopens: The New Experience, Reviewed

Rachel Gauer and Emma Hughes

   On March 31, Petaluma’s only mainstream movie theatre, Boulevard Cinemas, reopened to the public after over a year of closure. Though restaurants, outdoor activities, and stores have opened and re-opened throughout the last year in accordance to the CDC guidelines, movie theatres nationwide have been unable to open throughout the entirety of the pandemic. Finally movie-fanatics and those looking for a relaxing day activity can return to the movie theatre with several new, COVID-19 guidelines. We decided to review the new Boulevard Cinemas experience under the COVID-19 lens. 

Upon entering the lobby, it became clear that there were several, slight changes. First, the location for purchasing tickets was in an entirely different spot: instead of walking in immediately and being able to purchase tickets and choose seats at the kiosk, signs and arrows directed us to the food counter. The showtimes and list of films still remain in the traditional ticket “window,” so one is able to browse the films and then walk over to the counter to pay. Luckily, we had selected which film and showing time ahead of time online, so we knew exactly what we wanted to see. At the counter, we chose our seats using a tablet. Immediately, I was shocked to see that nearly all of the (desirable) seats were gone. We had arrived fifteen minutes prior to the Wednesday night showing of “Together, Together” and assumed obtaining seats would be easy; however, the red X’s that appeared over the seats on the screen said otherwise. The woman who sold us the tickets explained to us that she was able to override the system to put individuals from the same party next to each other, meaning that each seat purchased immediately stops the seats on either side of it from being purchased. So, even though the entire theatre was nearly “full” on the screen, only four tickets had been purchased. We ultimately chose two front row seats next to each other and paid with cash (there are no changes in payment methods at the theater).

Photo by Rachel Gauer

     The food counter was entirely open, much to our surprise. Though we opted out of purchasing food as we had brought our own snacks, it was an option. 

     Next, we arrived at our showing’s theater. Immediately we were surprised to find that it was the size of a large living room and had three rows total. We sat in the front (which, due to the small theatre size, was a surprisingly good spot) and was in front of a couple in the middle row, and an additional group of two in the backmost row. Though the room was small, we both felt that we had a comfortable distance away from the other movie-goers. We were told that masks were to be kept on throughout the movie’s entirety, except when eating or drinking. As we walked in, it alarmed me that one of the couples had already taken their masks off and were devouring their popcorn. It was uncomfortable at first being in the same room with others with no masks but I soon realized that the four other people were at a fair distance away from us. It was clear, however, that the mask policy is not greatly enforced while viewing the film.

     As we settled into our seats and watched the previews, the normalcy of a pre-COVID-19 movie viewing experience was once again possible. Yes, it was odd to be back in a movie theater with other people who at times weren’t wearing masks, but ultimately we were able to just enjoy the plush recliner seats and the wide screen displaying the movie. When the lights went down and the movie began, the sense of comfort continued. Our attention was focused on the movie, not on how the experience is now different because of COVID-19. Despite the initial awkwardness of seeing others without masks and removing our own masks in order to have our snacks, the distance between us and other movie-goers coupled with the nostalgia of being back in a movie theater to make the experience pleasant all together.