A popular South Whidbey performing arts venue is turning its focus toward the silver screen.
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, or WICA, has curated a selection of retro films for movie-goers to enjoy until live entertainment is permitted again.
The motion pictures are a mix of adaptations of plays, Oscar winners and foreign films, WICA Executive Director Verna Everitt said.
Opening night was Friday, Oct. 9. The movies will run Friday through Sunday nights.
WICA has been home to the Whidbey Island Film Festival for the past few years, but this is its first time it is showing movies and nothing else, Everitt said.
The venue will be operating under movie theater guidelines for a Phase 3 county, meaning about 62 tickets per show will be sold, which is 25 percent capacity of the theater.
The theater’s space has been reconfigured, with the addition of two more aisles, making a total of five aisles. Tables with lamps have also been added, and attendees will be able to purchase popcorn and pitchers of beer from Double Bluff Brewery.
Perhaps the most exciting addition to the theater space is a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Everitt said the old system was 25 years old, the same age as WICA.
The new system is built containing UV light rays, which purify the air and rid it of germs, viruses, bacteria, mold and smoke, Everitt explained. The same kind of systems are used in hospitals.
“The governor’s office has been touting this as a real protector to mitigate the spread of COVID,” Everitt said.
“We now have the cleanest indoor air on Whidbey Island.”
She added that WICA has written the book on best practices for opening arts centers safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing out that very few Phase 3 counties have arts centers.
The governor’s office and the Washington State Arts Commission have both asked for WICA’s guidance.
Earlier this summer, WICA hosted the Summer Nights Series, which was local music, improv and theater shows.
It was then that social distancing guidelines were first implemented because it was the organization’s first time being open since the pandemic began.
Everitt said WICA’s new plan to open exclusively as a movie theater has been approved by the Island County Public Health Department.
“We are following all the guidelines,” Everitt said. “We have the blessing from the Island County Public Health Department.
“They’re so proud of the work that we’ve done.”
She expects tickets to sell fast, so she recommends people buy online instead of showing up at the box office on opening night.
There will be a few livestreamed events that can be viewed in the movie theater. Two will be music performances, and one will be political conversations.
A French film festival and an Italian film festival are also in the works. The upcoming Whidbey Island Film Festival’s theme will be Hollywood Legends.
The arts organization is currently looking for sponsors who are interested in supporting the season or series of movies.