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Historic theatre in Portsmouth adjusts for social distancing

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Posted at 3:01 PM, Mar 26, 2021

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The Commodore Theatre in Olde Towne Portsmouth was built in 1945 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Despite being closed last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now open with safety measures in place.

The theatre has traditional stadium seating on the balcony, but on the main floor, there are tables and chairs – ideal for dining. The owner, Fred Schoenfeld, says though the tables are already spread out, they’re seating at every other table to be cautious.

“Hopefully by summer or early fall when they lift all the restrictions and most folks have their vaccinations, we can go back to seating at every table,” Schoenfeld said.

He told News 3 that last year when they were forced to close, he did have to lay off some workers.

“Fortunately, most of them returned in June when we reopened, and we hired some new folks in last month or so,” Schoenfeld said.

The theatre has many vintage features, including the original curtain from the 40’s and two enormous, restored murals. It also boasts new technology.

“We are a THX-certified theatre, and what that means is that the whole experience of watching a movie at the Commodore is totally unlike any other theatre,” Schoenfeld, who is a sound and projection engineer, said. “We have a 40-foot screen, one of the biggest in Tidewater. The ultimate compliment was when we opened and one of the engineers from Dolby Laboratories came to the theatre and said ‘This is as good as it gets.’ So that gave me the sense that we had really accomplished something.”

Schoenfeld said last June, the Commodore had the pleasure of hosting Derrick Borte, who directed the movie “Unhinged” with Russell Crowe. Borte came for a private showing and later came to visit with moviegoers and answer questions.

As for arrangements within the theatre, there are tables for two, three or four. The owner says they traditionally have adults, and they don’t allow small children in the theatre unless they’re showing a family movie.

The cost for a movie is $9 cash or $10 by credit card.

“We’re still one of the best bargains in town,” Shoenfeld added.

To see the menu and showtimes, click here.