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Lights, Camera, Action: Albany's Spectrum 8 Open Again

The marquee outside the Spectrum 8 in Albany on Wednesday
Lucas Willard
The marquee outside the Spectrum 8 in Albany on Wednesday

Albany movie buffs will be able to catch up on their Oscar shortlist today, as the Spectrum 8 Theater on Delaware Avenue is reopening after a year-long shutdown. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard got a sneak preview as the arthouse theater came back to life.

It’s been a whole year since moviegoers have settled into their seats, and heard the Landmark Theatres' fanfare play just before the trailers roll.

Some rows of seating are roped off at the Spectrum 8
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC
Some rows of seating are roped off at the Spectrum 8

On Wednesday afternoon, with the Spectrum’s re-opening two days away, theater manager Joseph Crowe took me inside to demonstrate the new routine guests will encounter.

New signage points the way to the antique box office.

“We have installed a Plexiglass across the entire front just to keep our customers and our employees safer. We are encouraging people to buy tickets online…”

Plush benches in the lobby area have also been roped off, and the glass snack case won’t have favorites like cake and pastries just yet…

“We are going to be having initially a reduced menu. We’re going to be doing popcorn, soda, and candy…”

Customers will have to wait to dig into their Sour Patch Kids until they take their seats, which will be assigned.  Inside this theater, equipped with HEPA filters, every other row is blocked off, with a limited number of seats per row available. Under New York COVID restrictions, movie theaters are capped at 25 percent capacity, with no more than 50 attendees at a time.

“So this is one of our biggest theaters, we have two identical ones that are this size. So typically in the past these would seat about 186, and now – I don’t have a calculator out – but it’s going to be about 45, I think.”

Crowe’s math checks out.

In addition to the reconfigured seating and lobby experience, theaters will be cleaned between each showing and showtimes will be staggered.

This is not the first attempt at re-opening. The Spectrum was ready to welcome cinephiles last fall, but the worsening pandemic put a halt to those plans.

“And when we were set to open in November, you know, some people kind of, either, were walking by then or reached out, but everyone just seemed excited to have it back.”

The Spectrum is known for unique offerings. Assistant Manager Bekah Barton grew up a good drive away but would still make the long trip to Albany when she was younger.  

“I had to drive about an hour to get to any movie theater, so it was sometimes the mall, sometimes it was here, though, for sure. Especially for with foreign films, there was definitely a lot of times where this was the only place playing something you would want to see, so…I think that has continued throughout the years. We definitely are still one of the few places around here that has a lot of the stuff, the smaller stuff,” said Barton.

Barton has worked here for 10 years. For Crowe, eight. When the shutdown happened in March 2020, the staff was furloughed.

“I started out working part-time and as time moved by, moved up in to be a manager and all that kind of stuff…so yeah, definitely having an abrupt stop back a year ago now was…jarring? I don’t know, it’s…I thought we were coming back after a couple of weeks. You know? You didn’t think you were going to be home…”

“…I think for a lot of people early on it was just…we were thinking, ‘Oh no, can we last a month without this?’ You know? And then it kinda snowballed…”

“Yeah, and then, you know, you’re just kind of playing the waiting game, I guess,” laughs Barton.

And speaking for the regulars, Crowe and Barton say they’ll be glad to have them back, too.

For showtimes and more information visit: https://www.landmarktheatres.com/albany-ny/spectrum-8-theatres

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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