Owner of Raleigh historic movie theater says relaxed COVID-19 rules likely won’t help

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — More people can now kick back and enjoy a night out at the movies in North Carolina.

Under Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order that eases certain COVID-19 restrictions, movie theatres can now have 50 percent capacity.

But when there aren’t many new movies to light up the marquee at the Rialto Theatre, owner Bill Peebles says increased capacity limits won’t necessarily mean more ticket sales at the box office.

“Quite literally, we have no new product at the moment,” Peebles said of the lack of new movies being released.

He added, “Whether it’s 30 percent, 50 percent, or 100 percent (occupancy), until the distributors start releasing good product, it does not affect us,” he said.

When theatres were forced to dim their lights and close last year, Peebles said most of Hollywood put a freeze on new movie releases.

“They’ve either slipped it to play later in the year or next year,” he said. “Or, they’ve pulled it all together because they don’t know what to do with it.”

The Rialto has a loyal following of moviegoers.

Peebles tells CBS 17 his historic theatre off Glenwood Avenue thrives when showing “period,” romance, or “off the beaten-path” movies. With new flicks in short supply these days, the Rialto is mostly running retro films.

“Last week we had Ferris Buellers Day Off,” said Peebles. “It was very well attended, thank God we have a big auditorium.”

Even as other states begin to ease pandemic-related restrictions, Peebles says there’s still a lot of uncertainty.

“Until Hollywood sees them releasing a movie that is going to really generate a lot of income, they’re gonna hold their good stuff back,” he said.

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