The Roseland Returns

The Roseland Theatre in Onancock is open again after shutting down in March due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

By Carol Vaughn —

The Roseland Theatre in Onancock is open again after having been shuttered since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The last show was on March 15,” said owner Scott Chandler of the Onancock Theatre Corporation.

The theater reopened earlier this month, with safety protocols in place.

The Roseland is an Eastern Shore institution, having hosted generations of moviegoers since it opened in 1951.

Among the earliest films shown at the Roseland was a Tarzan movie. A long-time customer gave Chandler an old photograph of the theater marquee advertising the film.

Chandler said the Roseland has not been closed this long since he purchased the theater in 1976, although it sometimes closed during hot summer weather back in the 1960s, before air conditioning was installed.

Since Chandler took the helm, until this year the theater “has run continously for weekend shows without a break,” he said.

Starting in 2015, when a new, digital sound system was installed, it sometimes shows first-run movies during the week as well.

The Roseland is the only movie theater still operating in the immediate area. The nearest one, operating on a seasonal basis, is on Chincoteague, about 35 miles away, and the closest multiplexes are an hour or more away in Hampton Roads.

A theater complex at a mall in Salisbury is closing temporarily after the national company lost more than $1.5 billion in the first half of 2020, according to an announcement Regal Cinemas made earlier this month.

The Roseland staff took advantage of the extended shutdown to replace the carpet, thoroughly clean the seats and the rest of the building, and make renovations to the concession area and the front office.

Even through a mask, the theater has that fresh, new carpet smell.

“We are committed to the theater industry’s Cinema Safe program,” Chandler said of current protocol.

That includes providing socially distanced seating — every other row is blocked off for the timebeing — and a modified flow for concessions; offering optional online ticket purchase; and requiring masks when customers are not eating or drinking.

Under current state COVID-19 guidelines, theaters are allowed to operate at 50% capacity, but the Roseland operators have chosen to keep seating to 30% capacity — which is not a problem, since the old-school theater can seat 330.

This weekend, the Roseland is showing the classic cult flim favorite, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It’s the first time the film has been screened at the Roseland, according to Chandler.
For Halloween weekend, the movie will be It Chapter Two, a sequel to a horror film that was popular with moviegoers at the Roseland.

After that, it will be more family-friendly fare, including PG-13 rated films The New Mutants, The Broken Hearts Gallery, and Like Harvey Like Son, a documentary about Cincinnati high school teacher Harvey Lewis, who sets out to conquer the Appalachian Trail in record-breaking fashion.

“Right now, one of the biggest challenges that we have as a movie theater is getting new films,” Chandler said, adding, “The film studios and distributors have been pushing back their release, postponing the films” during the pandemic.

Two community groups that regularly use the Roseland Theatre — Onancock International Films and Roseland Cinema and Entertainment Center — are still in the process of deciding how to proceed in the coming months. OIF recently showed a free movie out of doors at the Historic Onancock School, but as winter sets in that may not be a viable option.

The Roseland Theatre is at 48 Market St., Onancock.

The website is — tickets may be purchased online or at the theater.

The box office opens 30 minutes before showtime.

General admission is $10 for adults, $7.50 for children age 12 and under when accompanied by a paying parent.

For seniors 62+ admission is $9.

Call the movieline at 757-787-2010 or 757-787-2209, Option 1.

Email [email protected]

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