Innovation is keeping this small South Okanagan cinema alive - InfoNews

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Innovation is keeping this small South Okanagan cinema alive

Oliver theatre operators Lyle Miller and Kandise Ife have come up with an innovative way to keep the theatre's doors open during the pandemic.
Image Credit: Facebook / Oliver Theatre
August 13, 2020 - 7:30 AM

Movie theatres have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as movie making was curtailed and social distancing protocols made theatre operations almost impossible during the COVID lockdowns.

The industry is continuing to struggle as restrictions ease, but one iconic, small town, South Okanagan movie theatre is trying to get back in business with some innovative ideas.

The Oliver Theatre in Oliver is widely known for its small town, vintage theatre feel. It’s been around since 1946 and operators Lyle Miller and Kandise Ife want to keep it around for some time to come.

They recently began opening up for private showings amongst families or groups of 10 or more people.

“We’re charging enough for use of the theatre. They bring their own DVD player and movie, and we supply them with a small pop and popcorn. It can make for a family night away, something different,” Miller says.

The theatre, with 300 seats, has room for up to 50 people with social distancing rules. Miller says rows, aisles and seats are blocked off so people are spaced properly.

“If it’s a family, we can arrange for them to sit together. We started this last weekend after trying different things. We tried running older movies through our broker, but the turnout just wasn’t there,” he says.

“People who are sitting at home for three or four months don’t want to watch Netflix movies. Trying to get them in for old movies is pretty tough, and people are still pretty sheepish about mixing with strangers - this way it gets them as a family or a group that they know. We’ve had some great feedback so far,” Miller says.

Bookings have been increasing daily since last weekend.

The $10 fee includes a small popcorn and pop, and it's based on a first-come, first-served system.

“If that’s what we have to do to keep it going, that’s what we’ll do. We also have birthday parties, which we’ve had since day one. Kids love that because they get to run around, play with balloons, things they can’t do in big city theatres,” he says.

"We’ve tried numerous things, and I can’t believe how this has taken off. That’s fantastic, and we love the support from the community. We love the theatre and we don’t want to go anywhere. We love having it and it’s a fun thing to do,” Miller says.

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