After more than a year of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Loft Cinema will open its doors again to public screenings on Friday, May 7.
The nonprofit independent movie theater will welcome people back with showings of the documentary, "Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street," in its main auditorium.
The film recounts the creation of the landmark educational series and had its world premier at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
"It is a good movie to open with," said Jeff Yanc, program director for The Loft. "It is a very positive, optimistic movie about good things. You can't really feel bad or negative about 'Sesame Street.'"
Yanc said the decision to reopen was made primarily because of the decrease in COVID-19 cases and the increase of vaccinations in Arizona.
"We were waiting for that vaccination train to start rolling," he said. "We had been getting a lot of inquiries over the last year about reopening. But I think people appreciate the fact that we were being safe and kind of taking it slow. Everyone understood why we were waiting so long."
Yanc said The Loft could afford to wait thanks to the generosity of the theater's patrons and supporters who were quick to give during fundraising campaigns.
"From talking to our customers, that was always the prevailing notion," Yanc said. "People wanted us to be around in the longterm. It was less stressful knowing that we had an audience that was rooting for us to come back."
The Loft also came up with new movie-driven revenue streams during the pandemic, including renting its auditoriums out for private screenings, streaming films online and launching its Open Air Cinema program in September where movies were shown outdoors.
Yanc said The Loft will continue to rent out its two smaller auditoriums for private showings while it gets back into the swing of things. Public screenings in the main auditorium will be limited to two a day.
Open Air Cinema will also continue. Yanc said they are considering using the format when The Loft starts bringing back some of its regular activities, like its sing-a-longs and Mondo Monday events, as well as its annual Loft Film Festival in the fall.
Yanc said customers might notice some of safety upgrades inside the theater — things like plexiglass in the lobby, sanitization stations and touchless bathroom fixtures.
But the auditorium itself will still have the same comfortable feel, with reduced capacity. Folks are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance online.
Yanc said the pre-sale tickets of the "Sesame Street" documentary have been encouraging.
"People seem to want to come back," he said.
The Loft Cinema is located at 3233 E. Speedway. For information on screening times, visit loftcinema.org.