Granada on Feb. 2, 2021 .jpg

The Granada movie theater in downtown La Grande reopens Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. Changes in COVID-19 restrictions allows the lone movie house in Union and Wallowa counties to seat no more than 13 people per showing.

LA GRANDE — The dark screens at the Granada Theater in downtown La Grande are about light up. Again.

The three screen movie house — the only theater showing movies in Union and Wallowa counties — opens Friday, Feb. 5, with two movies: the 2020 animated family feature, “The Croods: A New Age,” and the new gritty action movie, “The Marksman,” starring Liam Neeson.

Granada manager Patty Johnson said the business has not been able to show movies since Nov. 18, 2020, when Gov. Kate Brown’s then two-week freeze went into effect in several counties, including Union County. To help bridge that gap, the Granada did what it could.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, it has been selling movie theater popcorn and concession snacks for takeout.

“The takeout had been great,” Johnson said. “The community has been great. Buying popcorn for movie nights at home. People come from Elgin. One person even came from Enterprise.”

Johnson also manages the La Grande Drive-in, which closes in winter. The drive-in, though, has not been doing takeout. Johnson said there’s a good reason for that.

“People don’t realize the concession stand is not insulated,” she said. “People can sit in their cars. But it’s really cold for us to do takeout.”

When the Granada opens Friday, it will not be able to sell snacks or drinks for the patrons watching the movies. Johnson said that has to do with COVID-19 restrictions.

“I guess they consider it indoor dining,” she said.

And it’s also against the rules, she said, for moviegoers to bring in their own goods. Someone sneaking in a candy bar or more could be easy to spot.

“I can only allow 13 people in per showing,” Johnson said, per the state’s rules using square footage to cap the crowd size for certain indoor activities.

Not being able to sell popcorn, soda and other goods to patrons is a hard knock on the business, Johnson said. Movie theaters make little money from ticket sales. Their profits come from the sales at the concession stand.

Johnson added she is hopeful for fewer restrictions next week as the state continues to reevaluate county risk levels for COVID-19.

For now, Union County, Baker County and 23 other counties remain in the extreme risk category, which comes with the most restrictions, including the prohibition against any indoor dining.

Neighboring Grant County is the lone county in the moderate risk group and Wallowa County is among the eight counties in the lower risk group. Lincoln and Douglas counties on the west side of Oregon are the two counties in the high risk group.

The Granada also cut off selling movie tickets online, Johnson said, and so it’s first come, first served at the window. And the theater is starting both movies at the same time. She said the moves are about being fair to customers.

The Granada will be open — for now, at least — Friday through Monday. And in spite of the COVID-19 cap on the audience size, Johnson said “bargain Monday” with lower ticket prices will be in effect.

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