Gateway Film Center is reopening its doors Aug. 31 after being closed for five months. Credit: Amal Saeed | Former Photo Editor

After five long months of empty seats and blank theater screens, the Gateway Film Center is finally ready to get the show on the road and reopen its doors. 

Gateway announced in a press release Aug. 20 that the theater will reopen with limited film selections and smaller audiences Monday after being temporarily closed since March due to COVID-19. 

“We waited on reopening until we had finalized a plan to keep our patrons and teammates safe,” Chris Hamel, the president of Gateway, said in the release. 

Some of the measures Gateway is taking to safely reopen include a new seating plan with reserved and reduced seating capacity, having a limited number of screenings to allow staff members time to fully disinfect the area, making masks mandatory for anyone in the theater except for when seated, limited menu items and an updated cleaning procedure, according to Gateway’s website

For movie fans who aren’t quite ready to get back to the theater, Gateway is still offering virtual screening rooms that can be found on its website, according to the press release. 

Gateway may be ready to open, but Amanda Hoffsis, a Gateway Film Foundation board chair and the president of campus partners, said in the release that Gateway — a nonprofit, independent film center — as well as the arts sector and the film industry as a whole are facing challenges.

“The Film Center has grown through the years by bringing innovative programming to central Ohio, focusing on building strong community partnerships, and investing in infrastructure and technology,” Hoffsis said. “These continued approaches will help weather the uncertainty of the next several years.”  

Maddi Young, a third-year in social work and women’s, gender and sexuality studies, said before its closure, she would go to Gateway whenever she could.

Having grown up in a small town, Young said a lot of the theaters around her would only show big blockbuster movies, which is one of the reasons she likes Gateway so much — for its screenings of older and independent films.

“I just think it’s really cool to have the opportunity to see stuff other than the mainstream movies,” she said. 

Matt Berman, a third-year in political science, said he would go to Gateway two to three times a month before it closed. 

Similar to Young, a trip to Gateway is much more than the average visit to the movies for Berman, who said one of the reasons he’s so drawn to Gateway is its diverse selection of films. 

“I’ve seen a lot of international films there —  from France, from Israel, from China — that I would have never seen or even heard about had I not been at Gateway,” Berman said. 

After having won 24 free movie tickets in February for sitting through Gateway’s annual 24 hour screening of the 1993 classic “Groundhog Day,” Berman said he is eager to put his tickets to good use. 

Berman said he is confident in Gateway’s ability to reopen while still following state health guidelines; however, he plans to wait a few weeks before visiting to ensure this is the case. 

“As soon as I’ve heard from at least one of my friends — someone from Gateway or anything like that — that everything is good to go, I’ll be right there,” Berman said.