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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘It’s great to be back’: Garland Theater reopens for movies Friday

The force was not with the Garland Theater or anyone 16 months ago. “Star Wars” was the last film screened at the Garland before the pandemic shuttered venues around the world.

Garland Theater owner Katherine Fritchie sounded forlorn during a December chat when Warner Bros. announced that all of its 2021 films would run on HBO Max at the same time they play in theaters.

“It’s disheartening for sure,” she said. ”To be honest, when we closed, I thought the pandemic would last a couple of years.

“I thought we were going to get more waves.”

However, Fritchie and the rest of the world rode the waves, and some semblance of normalcy has arrived. The Garland Theater is reopening Friday. “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Boss Baby 2” and “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” will be screened. “It’s family-friendly and a little scary,” Fritchie said.

But “The Conjuring” isn’t as frightening as Fritchie’s economic situation during the long pandemic. Thanks to the Shuttered Venue Operator Grant for $459,000, which Fritchie received this month, her budget is balanced.

“It brings us back to where we were,” Fritchie said. “We’ve paid our debt off, and we get a cushion for our payroll.” What’s perhaps most surprising is that the Garland had 40 applicants for 10 jobs.

“It’s hard to believe, considering that there are so many restaurants that are looking for people,” Fritchie said. “I guess people, children and adults, want to work in a movie theater.”

Fritchie’s daughter Kiele Rogalski, 23, will serve drinks in the cocktail bar Bon Bon with bar manager Jasmine Barnes at the Garland, which is surrounded by a number of new shops in the revitalized neighborhood that is vibrant and artsy. “I’m excited about what’s been happening with the Garland District,” Fritchie said.

“It’s certainly different than it was during the winter when I would come in to collect the mail, flush toilets and make sure the heat was on to make sure we didn’t have any frozen pipes. It was a depressing time then, but it’s different now.”

Fritchie, who has owned the Garland since 1999, is a little worried about what’s ahead for theaters but is hopeful that the moviegoing experience will attract customers.

“I don’t know what the future of movies is going to be,” she said. “But there’s nothing like being in a theater. Just the sound and size of the screen and the smell of the popcorn is enough of a reason to come out and see a movie. It’s great to be back.”