Cinema returns as theaters reopen for the holidays

Keegan Williams, reporter

Movie season is returning as the chilly winter months quickly approach. While rain and snow limit outdoor activities, a warm movie theater draws in a large audience on a dreary day. Soon, movies will be the best option for a couple hours of laughs and enjoyment, with Marin’s current COVID-19 restrictions. Popular theaters across Marin are beginning to welcome guests again, with some unusual but necessary modifications. These theaters feature different social atmospheres and are located across Marin County, ensuring convenience for anyone living in the area.

As the virus evolves and cases rise, so do restrictions. All COVID-19 regulations pertaining to movie theaters were followed as of Nov. 14.

Century Northgate Theater: 4/5 stars

Northgate returns to the limelight and welcomes viewers again

In conjunction with the Northgate mall, Century Northgate Theater is located just off of the US Highway 101 in San Rafael. Conveniently, I only encountered nine people at the theater, even though I went on a rainy Saturday night, because before COVID-19, a winter weekend would have drawn large crowds to the mall. However, with the facility’s new protocol requiring staggered showtimes and the reduction of available seating by 75 percent, viewer safety is protected. Caution tape is placed in every other row, further enforcing the reduced seat policy. Fewer members of the audience resulted in a quieter theater, which improved the atmosphere. While the theater felt comfortable, the lobby presented a different ambience—Northgate is still selling concessions the same as it was prior to the virus. Given the current pandemic, I would feel more comfortable if the popcorn was sold in individual packages rather than from the communal vendor. Northgate’s policies inside the theater reassure viewers, but I would like to see some more COVID-19 safe practices implemented in the concession area.


Smith Rafael Film Center: 5/5 stars

The San Rafael Film Center is lit up on opening night, as COVID-19 restrictions loosen.

Similarly to the Century Northgate Theater, I was one of the only people in the Smith Rafael Film Center. The popular theater on Fourth Street between A Street and B Street in downtown San Rafael, sells concessions in

individual packages, as opposed to a communal vendor. There also is not caution tape blocking guests from sitting in certain seats like at Northgate, but seats are blocked out when trying to make a reservation online. Furthermore, since the complex is smaller than Northgate, there are fewer workers and viewers, thus limiting chances you will cross paths with someone exposed to COVID-19. Just minutes after the end of the movie, staff members entered the auditorium with cleaning supplies, spraying every seat with disinfectant. Altogether, the COVID-19 protocols at Smith Rafael Film Center made me feel safer than I felt at Northgate.  


The Lark Drive-In Theater: 4.5/5 stars

The Lark Drive-In Theater is located in the overflow parking lot at the Village Mall in Corte Madera. The only theater in Marin that displays previously released movies, the drive-in is a unique way to watch classic movies ranging from the late ’70s to the present. Currently, drive-in movie theaters are the safest way to watch movies, as you are only exposed to those in your own car. As a viewer, you get to control how loud the audio is, which is beneficial if you have sensitive ears or if you are hard of hearing. The audio plays on the station FM 91.3, so it is compatible with any car radio. I prefer that you can bring whatever foods or drinks desired, instead of relying on the overpriced snacks sold by other theaters. The only downfall is showtimes are canceled if it rains, so you will want to attend before the rainy season sets in.