NORFOLK, Va. — Jason Overholser and his family are on vacation in Hampton Roads from West Virginia, and they made a point to stop at a movie theater.
“The movies allow you to forget about everything else and go to another world for a little while," he said.
Overholser, who produces independent films as a hobby, went to theaters at least twice per month before the pandemic. He vividly remembers his first movie experience watching Stars Wars in theaters in 1977. He fell in love with cinema that day and has missed the experience for the last year.
Seven Regal Movie theaters in Hampton Roads welcomed people back to the box office for this first time on Friday.
Inside the MacArthur Center in Norfolk was where we found Jason, his wife, and son.
“I feel it is more than the movie you see... sort of the idea of returning to something," said Myles McNutt, Assistant Professor of Communication & Theatre Arts at Old Dominion University.
McNutt said it's another sign of hope. As more people get vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions end, trends show movie-goers are starting to feel more comfortable returning to the big screen.
"I think it’s this idea of measuring safety and risk next to this desire to return to things that used to give us positive feelings about which we hold positive memories we haven’t been able to do," he said.
McNutt expects the July 4 holiday to be the first major blockbuster weekend for the film industry since the pandemic. President Joe Biden set a goal to vaccinate 70 percent of U.S. adults by then.
Darin Whittington also loves movies and did not know the cinemas had reopened. He happened to be in the mall when he noticed people buying tickets.
“I said, 'Wow! You all are opening back again?'" he chuckled. "It’s about time!"
"With rapid improvements in COVID-19 case rates, increasingly widespread vaccinations, and recent CDC guidance that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or socially distance, the movie theatre industry will continue to meet or exceed state and local public health guidelines," read the company's website.
The website states, "masks will not be required unless mandated by state and local guidelines."
However, where masks are mandated, they can be removed only while eating and drinking seated in an auditorium.
Gov. Ralph Northam has lifted the mask mandate in Virginia; however unvaccinated people are asked to continue to wear masks and businesses are given the choice to enforce mask policies.
Capacity limits will apply where required by state or local mandates, according to the company's website. Coronavirus restrictions should be lifted in Virginia on May 28.
Overholser's glad to have these moments back with his family.
“I think people have missed it. It brings people a sense of calm and togetherness.”
Here's the list of Regal theaters reopening in Hampton Roads:
- Virginia Beach, Regal Columbus
- Chesapeake, Regal Greenbrier
- Suffolk, Regal Harbour View Grande
- Newport News, Regal Kiln Creek
- Norfolk, Regal MacArthur Center & RPX
- Williamsburg, Regal New Town
- Virginia Beach, Regal Strawbridge Marketplace