Late Friday afternoon at the Century Cinema 16 in Mountain View, fewer than 30 seats in one of the nearly 200-seat theaters were filled, but for moviegoers watching "The Boss Baby: Family Business," it was a slice of pre-pandemic normalcy — with no masking, proof of vaccination or physical distancing required. In the dark, children giggled; greasy fingers dipped into buckets of popcorn.
The cinema complex looked pretty much as it always has, though the water fountains were turned off, stickers on restroom floors still urged patrons to "Play your part; Stand apart" and workers wore face coverings.
Two weeks after the state's official reopening and the elimination of many shutdown regulations, large venues along the Midpeninsula are taking their time coming back online. Some, like Century 16, have resumed business mostly as normal, leaving decisions about masking and physical distancing entirely to the customers themselves.
Others, like the Shoreline Amphitheatre, have yet to welcome back the public. The parking lot famous for post-concert gridlock stands almost deserted. Inside the metal entrance gates, yellow "caution" tape remains strung between trees and poles. Above the box office windows, the marquee sports not the names of upcoming attractions but, instead, "Wish you were here."
On the event venue's website, the first show listed this summer is on Aug. 21: country singer-songwriter Dierks Bentley's "Beers on Me" tour. Health and safety rules posted on the website cite the CDC's recommendation that non-vaccinated persons wear face coverings. But there's no guideline that attendees at the 22,500-capacity venue will have to verify their full-vaccination status or show a negative COVID-19 test, despite the California Department of Public Health's "strong recommendation" that people going to outdoor events with more than 10,000 people do so.
Live Nation, which operates the amphitheater, did not agree to an interview but stated in an email: "As each event approaches, any updates will be shared on our website and directly with ticket holders with information needed to plan their concert experience at Shoreline Amphitheatre -- including the latest policies and procedures to know before entering the venue in accordance with guidelines from local health and public safety officials."
Elsewhere on the Midpeninsula, other venues are phasing in events this summer using their outdoor spaces, with clear plans for resuming indoor performances soon.
The Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (MVCPA) at 500 Castro St. has reopened, with live shows having recently resumed in its outdoor ParkStage space, which can accommodate up to 300 with lawn seating, and its small, indoor SecondStage space, which has a capacity of 200.
As of June 25, the city of Mountain View venue was not yet offering tickets to any productions on its 600-capacity MainStage, where arts companies like TheatreWorks perform, but Marketing and Public Relations Manager Shonda Ranson said she hopes MainStage events will resume in August. She directed the public to check online for updates at the center's website.
As of June 25, all staff and volunteers at MVCPA are wearing masks and maintaining physical distance where possible. No masks or distancing are required for fully vaccinated attendees, the website states, while unvaccinated attendees are required to mask and distance.
At Stanford University, outdoor concert venue Frost Amphitheater reopened at less than 5% capacity, 400 attendees per event, on April 29 to show movies. As of Wednesday, Stanford Live has added concert and ballet performances to its lineup at Frost and increased audience capacity to 20%, or 1,660 people, for July, with larger audiences allowed in August.
Citing the latest state, county and university guidance as of July 2, audiences at the Frost Amphitheater will not need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or of full vaccination. Masks are optional for vaccinated patrons and required for those unvaccinated.
Stanford Live has also scheduled its first indoor performance of the year at Bing Concert Hall for Aug. 25-29: the premiere of "The No One's Rose," a coproduction from Stanford Live, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (PBO) and the American Modern Opera Company.
The show combines music, dance, and theater incorporating the work of Paul Celan, a poet and Holocaust survivor. Leading up to the premiere, the artists will participate in a two-week residency at Stanford Live.
Masks will be required for all patrons at indoor shows, according to the Stanford Live website.
One indoor venue that's already back and with 100% capacity: Stanford's Cantor Arts Center, which can accommodate 2,000 visitors per day between Wednesday and Sunday. It began its gradual reopening in April, when it invited students and museum members to be its first visitors and then launched a "Welcome Back" ad campaign. The museum operated at 25% capacity at that time and required visitors to follow a timed-reservation system.
Since the June 15 reopening, Cantor has switched from a timed-reservation system to all-day reservations, which are free. The museum still requires all visitors to wear masks, consistent with the recommendations from the university. Its website continues to urge people to maintain social distance from others inside the museum.
"It was important to the Cantor staff to open at limited capacity when it was deemed safe in April because we know that the museum is place for community connection, even at a distance," Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell, interim co-director and the Burton and Deedee McMurtry curator at the Cantor Arts Center, said in a statement. "We have since increased capacity to 100% and look forward to welcoming even more visitors in the galleries and on the museum grounds throughout the summer and into fall when we will be opening Paper Chase: Ten Years of Collecting Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Cantor."
For sports fans, cheering on the Cardinal this fall should feel familiar: Stanford Athletics is planning to welcome fans to its indoor and outdoor competition venues with no capacity limitations, and football tailgating is also expected to be permitted, the university announced this week.
The first football home game will be against UCLA on Sept. 25.
"We are excited to be back at Stanford Stadium this season and playing in front of our students, fans and alumni," David Shaw, Bradford M. Freeman director of Football, stated in a press release. "We have one of the toughest and most exciting schedules in the nation."
All home athletic events will operate in compliance with state public-health guidelines, as well as county and campus directives, the university stated. Specific protocols will be announced closer to the start of the season. More information is posted at gostanford.com.