When travelling along Highway 95 in Golden, Kicking Horse Movies is hard to miss.
With a bright marquee outside of its front entrance, the storied theatre was just the fourth theatre in British Columbia to reopen after COVID-19 cause the temporary shutdown of theatres nation-wide.
While at first the theatre was only open for private rentals and showings, the theatre has been open to the public with a limited capacity since June 12.
“The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, we’ve had no negative comments whatsoever,” said Stuart Angus, who owns the theatre along with his family.
“Watching a movie at home, it just doesn’t compare to watching it in theatre with other people and surround sound, it’s just a different experience.”
Standing tall on the historic site of one of Golden’s original structures, Kicking Horse Movies has been a staple of the community for 70 years. In fact, the building as it can be seen today just celebrated its birthday, first opening on July 5, 1950.
Originally named Yoho Theatre, the cinema has changed hands four times over the last seven decades but has historically been a family-owned business.
First owned by the Larue family, the Zaharichuk family took over in 1962, who carried the business until July 1969 when the Schaap family purchased it.
In 1991, the theatre once again changed ownership and saw the construction of the Video Express rental store, which used to take up a majority of the business and stretched into what is now the second theatre.
In May 2007, the current owners, the Angus family, took over on a last minute decision. Coming to Golden from across the pond, it was on their final day during their first visit to town when they happened to discover that the theatre was for sale.
While the original plan was to buy a small hotel or Bed and Breakfast, they were unable to find something suitable.
After consulting with their children, who now help operate the business, the family decided to purchase Kicking Horse Movies and settle down in the small and quaint ski town.
“We said to the kids, would you rather make beds every morning or work at the movie theatre and movie theatre it was,” said Angus.
“It was almost accidental.”
The theatre looked a lot different back then, with the Angus’ putting in work to renovate the place, adding a second theatre and modernizing it since taking over.
Being a family-owned business, it was a relatively easy process reopening after COVID closed down the theatre on March 16, with Angus stating it was always a given they would be reopening as soon as possible.
As a small operation, Angus found it easy to train his staff in the new provincial guidelines, especially when “staff” in this case is family.
After a quick trip down to Invermere to meet with the Interior Health officer to ensure they were meeting provincial requirements, some small adjustments were made and the theatre was back in business.
“It was a lot less complicated than I thought, because we’re a small town theatre it’s easier for us than if we were in a city,” said Angus.
Because the theatre usually only has one showing a day, there’s been no need to space out screenings as many bigger theatres have to do.
After every showing, Angus says all the seats are wiped down and disinfected.
Kicking Horse Movies is also operating at a reduced capacity, with every other row cordoned off.
Groups are allowed to sit together, but are asked to leave two to three seats between themselves and other groups, which brings the theatre’s capacity down to below 50 per cent of what it can handle. Markers have also been added to the theatre floor to ensure customers are social distancing.
While it may add time to the wait for tickets, no one has complained so far.
The theatre also records a phone contact from one person from each group in case there is an outbreak to help with contact tracing, which is required by the provincial health authorities.
The theatre has been showing older films, as new releases have been stalled due to the pandemic, but Angus anticipates no new releases will be coming to town until at least August, depending on how the pandemic in the U.S. continues to unfold.
But for now, he’s enjoying revisiting some of the classics, with Jaws in particular standing out.
“I remember going to see that movie, I was absolutely too young to go see it but my brother took me and I went to bed that night with my eyes wide open, absolutely terrified,” he recalled.
“The special effects now are awful, but at the time they were great and I just loved it.”
He’s looking into bringing in some more family friendly movies such as Shrek and Despicable Me and is interested in bringing in some classics like True Grit with John Wayne and Casablanca.
While it’s 70th year hasn’t been the smoothest, Kicking Horse Movies continues to provide entertainment for the community, even during a pandemic.