Reopening Bucks County theater gives back to 'hometown heroes'

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NEWTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — “There’s really nothing more historic in Newtown than the Newtown Theatre,” said Andy Smith, who is currently working with the theatre.

“The original building was built in 1831, and then it was rebuilt larger in 1883. We showed our first movie in 1906, which makes us the oldest continuously operating movie theater in the country,” he detailed. 

The theatre’s in-house staff were furloughed in the middle of March due to coronavirus restrictions. Smith, who is with a public relations and marketing company, has been helping ever since. 

The theatre, like so many other establishments, fell on hard times this year. Their typical schedule is filled with not only movie screenings, but concerts and comedy shows as well. 

“It’s an extremely challenging time for everybody, but I think especially theaters. Not just movie theaters, but playhouses and things like that. It’s very difficult to follow all the guidelines and have a limited crowd when these types of events thrive on crowds.”

Smith said when Bucks County moved into the yellow phase, that meant that groups of 25 people could rent the 300-seat theatre.

And “hometown heroes” are benefiting too. 

“For every person who rents, we’re giving a free night at the theater to a hometown hero and their family. So they can come in for free, watch a movie and have a little party.”  

A hometown hero, according to Smith, is a first responder, health care worker or someone on the front lines of the pandemic.

Safety guidelines for the theater are similar to a restaurant. “(Guests) have to wear masks the whole time except when they’re sitting down because you can’t eat popcorn with a mask on.” 

The theater provides all the concessions, contact-free. 

“We put it down by our stage,” explained Smith. “That way the person just goes down and grabs and has very little interaction with our staff.” 

When each group leaves, the staff does a thorough cleaning of the theatre. “The seats that they were sitting in and the bathrooms and anything that was touched,” said Smith.

The theatre allows groups to bring their own beer or “BYOB,” if the entire group is age 21 and older. 

Guests also have to bring their own DVD or Blu-ray.