The parking lots of many movie theaters across Madison County and Limestone County were fairly sparse Wednesday afternoon. However, the empty movie poster frames that line the outside of some of them were more indicative of where the industry stood.
Across the country, movie theaters shut their doors in an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Ralph Freehauf, the owner of independent theater Cinemagic in Athens, said it is eerie to see his multiplex so quiet.
"People have left notes on our door, 'Please, please, don't close up. I know you're closed right now, but please don't stay closed,'" said Freehauf.
It's unclear when the movie theaters will reopen. They were among the first types of businesses to be deemed "non-essential" in March. Freehauf said his industry is facing the challenge of losing about a third of its revenue, since movie studios have pushed back large, new releases until July.
"And two weeks later is going to be school starting. And so that's going to kill our summer. Movie theaters traditionally make most of their money, two thirds of their money, during the summer months, during Thanksgiving holidays and Christmas holidays," said Freehauf.
When he shut his six-screen auditorium, he hoped there might be a way to keep the adjacent drive-in theater open. But he said the Alabama Department of Public Health would not allow him to do that.
Freehauf is still optimistic despite the difficult and uncertain times. He said when they are able to reopen, they will have plenty of patrons.
"We're keeping everything ready to go so that we're ready the moment we can open," said Freehauf.
However, some people who spoke with WAAY 31 said they're not sure they would rush to the theater as soon as the opportunity arises.
"A theater is a place where there's a lot of people that come to watch movies, so I think people will be scared because it's a crowded place," said fifth-grader, Liza Slobogska.
Freehauf said it's incumbent upon the movie theaters to find ways to make the public feel safe at the movies in order to encourage them to return.