The Sun Theatre Williamston plans to reopen in a few weeks, said owner Lisa Robitaille, postponing the scheduled Oct. 9 reopening due to COVID-19 concerns. For now, the theatre will continue serving popcorn ‘to go.’
Robitaille announced on March 16 via Facebook the temporary closure due to COVID-19 concerns. The theatre saw an outpouring of support on social media.
The first popcorn ‘to go’ event happened days after on March 19. Robitaille opened the Sun Theatre concession stand to sell popcorn, candy, pop and gift certificates.
The popcorn ‘to go’ events are an alternate way the theatre can earn money while in-person attendance is closed. The next popcorn ‘to go’ event is scheduled for Saturday night, Oct. 17.
Sun Theatre Owner Lisa Robitaille said she doesn’t want to risk reopening and would rather play it safe, and see how other theaters do first.
The delayed reopening comes amidst Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Sept. 25 executive order declaring that movie theatres, arcades and bowling alleys can reopen Oct. 9.
Not all residents in Williamston wear a mask in public. Robitaille anticipates that it could possibly be a problem when they do reopen. “I definitely think there will be some issues,” said Robitaille.
If guests decide not to follow the mask rule, there is a possibility that they will be asked to leave. Robitaille said she hopes it does not ever come to that point.
The police department is not involved in how private businesses enforce patrons to wear a mask, Williamston Officer Joe Rutherford said. Going without a mask is not a crime, so “we’ll come out and de-escalate the situation.”
Spacing out guests is another issue Robitaille said will take some work. She said their plan for seating guests is ushering in each group to a designated spot that would allow for social distancing. Robitaille would not specify how many people would be limited to a group.
Due to the 20% capacity restrictions, Robitaille said she is not confident that the Sun theatre will be able to break-even, since it only has one screening room.
The Sun Theatre Williamston has been closed for seven months. A few times a week, the Sun Theatre has been opening its doors to sell fresh popcorn and snacks.
Robitaille has already hosted five popcorn ‘to go’ events in October. On the first weekend of October, the theatre hosted a ‘hotdog grab and go’ event before the Williamston High football and soccer games.
A Facebook post advertised the event to attract fans to stop in since Williamston High closed concession stands at the field.
Robitaille has to change her approach to stay afloat. She said they’ll have to do a lot of promoting when they come back.
The staple of Williamston
After living in Williamston for 30 years, Dave Kunce said residents fully support the Sun Theatre and would go to great lengths to keep it open if the theatre’s financial situation worsens.
Kunce said he is saddened by the temporary closure of the theatre since “movie theater history is wrapped up in the Sun [Theatre].” Kunce said he hopes the Sun Theatre stays in business because the theatre means a lot to both his father and the community.