When COVID-19 first hit, the Sunrise Theater had to make a difficult decision with little information. More than 350 people had purchased tickets to the highly anticipated “Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show” that had been scheduled for Sunday, March 15.
“At that time, there were no reported COVID-19 cases in Moore County, schools had just closed for what was thought to be two weeks, and little was known about how the virus spread,” says MaryBeth Poplyk, executive director of the Sunrise. “Our concern for the health and safety of our audience led the theater to cancel the film on March 14 with the hopes of rescheduling soon. On March 16, Gov. Roy Cooper banned mass gatherings of more than 100 people, and on March 23 all North Carolina theaters closed. The non profit, historic Sunrise Theater has been temporarily closed ever since.”
Recently, the Sunrise has pivoted to outdoor movies, using their green space, showing classic films under the stars.
“After detailing their outdoor plan to the British studio that distributes the ‘Riverdance’ film, the Sunrise received approval to show it outside and will be the first theater in the nation to do so,” says Poplyk.
The Sunrise is scheduling special screenings Thursday nights through the month of September beginning on Sept. 10. Current ticket holders will have first choice of the new events with remaining seats being available to the public. Tickets are $15.
Ticket holders who do not wish to see the film outside may hold their tickets until the theater is permitted to reopen.
To show movies outside, the Sunrise encloses the square with white tents and turns it into a spacious, open air theater. Large 10-foot circles that can seat up to four people are painted on the grass. The circles are spaced six feet apart for social distancing. Movie goers may bring blankets or chairs or purchase a chair at the box office. Masks may be removed when seated in a circle but are required at all other times. Concessions are available and shows start shortly after sunset.
The Sunrise will begin the rescheduling process immediately. Ticket holders who would like to watch “Riverdance” under the stars are encouraged to contact the theater at (910) 692-3611, Monday through Thursday, between 4 to 6 p.m. The Sunrise will guide them through the ticket exchange process in which they can choose a new date and select a circle. The theater recommends that ticket holders read the information on the SunriseTheater.com website before calling. A diagram of the outdoor theater is also shown on the website.
If attending with other people, all tickets need to be exchanged at the same time so that seats can be assigned together. Circles can accommodate up to four people with a few sections for slightly larger groups.
If the September dates sell out, the Sunrise will add additional outdoor showings so that every ticket holder who wants to see the film outside can be accommodated.
“The Sunrise plans to show the film inside the theater when it is permitted to reopen, but is uncertain when that may be,” says Poplyk. “When approved for reopening, capacity will be reduced for social distancing, and masks will be required at all times except when actively eating or drinking.” “Riverdance” will be scheduled at various times throughout the day including morning and midday shows. Ticket holders who prefer to wait for the indoor shows do not need to do anything currently — their tickets are safe.
What became a phenomenon was first performed during the seven-minute interval of the Eurovision Song Contest at the Point Theatre, Dublin in April 1994. The performance featured Irish dancing champions Jean Butler and Michael Flatley, the RTE Concert Orchestra and the Celtic Choral Group Anuna. Although it did not win the competition, it stole the show and launched a global phenomenon. The following year, the Riverdance Show debuted on the Dublin stage on Feb. 9, 1995, followed by a global tour.
Twenty-five years later, the award-winning performance celebrated with a Feb. 9, 2020, Dublin performance captured on film from the exact stage where it began. The internationally acclaimed family favorite performance is an Irish dance extravaganza completely reimagined with innovative and spectacular lighting, projection, stage and costume designs.
“The new 25th anniversary show catapults Riverdance into the 21st century and will completely immerse viewers in the extraordinary and elemental power of its music and dance,” says Poplyk.
The Sunrise Theater is located at 250 NW Broad St., Southern Pines. Call (910) 692-8501 or visit www.sunrisetheater.com for further information.