‘It’s been a rollercoaster ride:’ Entertainment venues try to reopen during pandemic, hurricane season

Entertainment venues struggling, despite being able to reopen

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Entertainment venues along the Grand Strand, can’t seem to catch a break.

Venues known for attracting crowds such as movie theaters, concert venues, amphitheaters and theatrical productions were last on Gov. Henry McMaster’s reopening list. Then Monday, when those venues were allowed to reopen in the state, Hurricane Isaias ripped through our area.

Our news team reached out to those in the movie and theatre industries, to see if they’re reopening was impacted by Hurricane Isaias and if their business is in a position to thrive during this COVID emergency.

General Manager for the Grand 14 Cinemas in Market Common, Duane Farmer, said he wasn’t able to reopen the theater Monday and the reason had nothing to do with Hurricane Isaias.

Until further notice, he said the theater will remain closed until they can get more box office and film selections for moviegoers.

“We’re still waiting to find out what we’re going to be able to play,” Farmer said. “Whether they are going to be new movies or some of the old stuff. We currently do not have an actual reopening date yet. We’re just hoping we can reopen by the end of the month. September is looking a little light right now.”

Farmer said he’s spent this week tracking down employees that have been out of work since March. Once those employees return to the work grounds, they will be trained on the new safety measures before they can serve guests.

Although Hurricane Isaias didn’t contribute to his theater pushing back their reopening, the hurricane did impact some other entertainment businesses.

“It’ been a roller coaster ride for the last week,” said Elizabeth Wylde, general manager for GTS Theatre in Myrtle Beach.

Wylde said after McMaster made the announcement that theatre productions could be up and running again, the GTS team was ready to jump back into rehearsals this week. But she said, there were challenges because the governor’s decision came without any notice for theatres.

She said the performers had to scramble to get a show prepared in time this week, but Hurricane Isaia put a short pause on opening the rehearsal curtain.

“We were going to get together Monday evening for more rehearsals, but we had to cancel those rehearsals because of the hurricane,” Wylde said.

Despite it all, the shows pressed on.

The first show at GTS theatre went up the day after Hurricane Isaias and productions will continue throughout the month.

Founder and CEO of Carolina Improv, Gina Trimarco, said because of the pandemic, her improv company had to relocate to GTS theatre for performances.

“We closed on March 7, stayed shut down for five months and ran out of money,” Trimarco said. “We [had to] move out of our space. When McMaster announced theatres could reopen, it was a little too late for us because we had already moved out. We had a back-up plan to move into GTS Theatre. At least we’re not completely out of business.”

She hoped the group would be performing to a full crowd of people for their first reopening show Friday night, but she thinks tourists were discouraged from visiting the area because of concerns about Hurricane Isaias.

“People were fearful of the storm coming in,” Trimarco said. “I’m not sure if we lost some tourists this week because of it, since we’re not seeing great ticket numbers as of right now. We don’t have enough lead time to market tickets. Summer’s widening down and tourists are now scared of coming here so it really was a little late letting us reopen when the summer was over. We were the last industry to be allowed to be open and our margins are slim. It’s not easy to keep a theatre going. So if you want the arts to continue to thrive on the Grand Strand, please go out and see a show.”

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