The Laemmle Theater in Claremont turns on its screens again, welcomes students again
For the past few months, going to the movies has meant opening your laptop, choosing from one of the many now overwhelming streaming services, and scrolling through hundreds of options.
âIt’s really a different way of experiencing movies,â Caroline Hardy PO ’24 said. âBefore, it was enough to buy a ticket to the cinema. But now do you have the technology? Do you have the streaming service? Do you have the money to pay for the extra thing? It’s not just about buying a ticket anymore.
Luckily for 5C students like Hardy, laptops aren’t the only option for watching movies now that we’re back in Claremont.
The Laemmle, Claremont’s theater on West 2nd Street, is open again: show times are posted, popcorn machines burst, and velvet ropes exit the lobby from the back.
Working at the Claremont 5 site in Laemmle since 2017, Samantha Cummings has held positions at the box office, at the dealership booth and now as one of four managers.
âI loved working here,â Cummings said. âI like that it’s really like familyâ¦ Especially in the past we had a lot bigger staff and we were all really there for each other.
With the ability to view free movies, Cummings appreciates the benefits as well. âWe get good movies rather than all the blockbusters. It kind of opened my eyes to more cultural films and stuff like that, âshe said.
On March 15, 2020, however, this supportive and fun community – along with the other sites of the Laemmle Theater chain – closed amid the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
Cummings found another job while the doors to Laemmle were closed for almost 13 months. “We all expected him to close [permanently]. We didn’t expect to come back, âshe said.
Despite empty theater rows and dark screens, the theater found ways to supplement its lost income during this time. Laemmle has set up a virtual cinema, making a variety of movies available for streaming. This service is still accessible on the Laemmle site website.
Additionally, the lobby saw a bit more activity when The Reverse Orangutan, a cafe, started renting the space in September 2020. The store still owns part of the concession stand, working side by side. with Laemmle employees.
Contrary to staff expectations, the Laemmle site in Claremont reopened on April 9, 2021.
Upon hearing the news that she would be returning to work, Cummings had some hesitation.
“I was a little scared just because [of] work again in the audience. But I got the vaccine before I started and it made me feel more comfortable. But I was really excited to come back.
The coronavirus has certainly not disappeared and the theater is taking multiple precautions to protect itself from it: compulsory mask when not eating or drinking, plexiglass barriers, more thorough cleaning procedures, assigned seats and buffer seats between the separate parts. According to Cummings, COVID-19 “got us in shape with cleaning and everything.”
Double-masking for a period, Cummings had concerns about working in a busy environment, but also found pleasure in the process.
âIt was great interacting with customers,â she said. âI saw a lot of regulars come back. So it was nice to see who comes back, who doesn’t. A little worry there. But I was just very happy to see people.
Seniors are Laemmle’s biggest clientele, but 5C students are also regulars, especially this month with the release of âShang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ringsâ..“ Cummings said she “still hoped that [the amount of 5C customers] picked up.
Hardy was one of those 5C students who went to the Laemmle theater to see “Shang-Chi”. She and four friends took advantage of the Sunday night student discount and entered the village for a performance at 7 p.m.
With a queue at the door, the Laemmle was certainly open and bustling. âWe were really worried that we wouldn’t be able to participate,â said Hardy.
Luckily, the line-up shifted and the group was able to purchase their $ 9 tickets, find their assigned seats, and settle in for a show.
âIt was my first time going to a movie theater since March 2020, when it all stopped,â Hardy said.
Despite the long line-up and the number of moviegoers, Hardy felt safe in the theater, from a COVID perspective. Nonetheless, Hardy said that “it was very surreal to return to an environment like this”.
Despite the closure of many theaters, the pandemic has also given many of us more time to watch and enjoy the movies. Maybe we can continue to pass that appreciation on – and we can pass it on to West 2nd Street.