By Jennifer K. Bauer

The Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre announced this week it will remain closed to public events but is moving forward cautiously with a plan to open for private rentals.

The nonprofit theater has been closed since March 16 because of COVID-19. The decision to remain closed to public events was made out of concern for higher-risk patrons, said Christine Gilmore, executive director.

“The real question is, if we were to open, would it be a viable business position to put us in for public events? Who would actually come? We were wanting to be more in control of the ins and outs,” Gilmore said. “With private rentals, we can have a little more control with contracts and people abiding by new health and safety guidelines. The decision is to maintain safety within our community. It comes down to the question: Would you attend a movie? The general consensus is no, most people would not.”

Kenworthy organizers considered three pillars, she said: community safety, the relevance of the Kenworthy to the community and revenue. The center depends on income from film screenings, rentals, events and donations.

“Since we’re not in a position where we can hold events in a large format, we’re trying to find a way to break even by the end of the year — a lofty goal in the time of COVID. We want to maintain some kind of income so we can remain relevant.”

The center is following safety protocols established by the National Association of Theater Owners in a program called CinemaSafe.

“COVID is not going to run on a calendar year,” said Gilmore, noting they are working on a “trial-and-error basis” with the potential that the center could be in this situation “for the long haul.” “We’re doing our best to figure out things one day at a time.”

Each private event will cost a flat $200 for a period of three hours and includes a small popcorn for all attendees. Private rentals will be limited to a maximum of 20 attendees, who will be required to

adhere to safety protocols including wearing masks when not seated and social distance seating. 

Events can be coordinated through Operations Director Jamie Hill. More information is available online at www.kenworthy.org .

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