It’s easy to forget just how majestic the main auditorium at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline is. Originally used as a church, the rich red curtains, ornate ceiling designs and gold trim exude a sense of divinity. This is a cathedral of film.

“You know, you all file in and you sit down and you look up at the screen altar, right? It’s a powerful experience," said Nick Lazzaro, the head projectionist at the Coolidge.

For more than a year, the pandemic shut down general admission showings, a sacrifice to safety. The congregation of cinema sat empty.

But now, as COVID numbers decline and the state reopens, the Coolidge has been born again, opening its doors to the public last week for the first time since the shutdown. For the theater and its patrons, the revival is a sign of hope after a year of streaming Netflix and HBO Max.

Lazzaro remembers exactly when everything started to change. On Friday the 13th March 2020, an appropriately ominous date, the Coolidge closed at 6 o’clock for a shutdown he thought would be for just a few weeks.

In the 14 months since then, the Coolidge held outdoor events and small, private screenings, but didn’t host general admission screenings.

Katherine Tallman, the theater’s CEO and executive director, told GBH News’ Boston Public Radio that moviegoers helped to keep alive the goal of the reopening the Coolidge’s doors.

“The community gave us a tremendous amount of financial support," she said. "We got that from across the country as the timing went on. We received support from 400 new donors. It was just extraordinary.”

As the state prepares to drop remaining COVID restrictions later this month, a lot of bills still need to be paid. To help make customers feel safe, the theater made adjustments like enhancing cleaning protocols and upgrading the ventilation system to help neutralize pathogens and bacteria.

Lazzaro, whose taken on the role of a COVID point man for the Coolidge, said all the preparations cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Add that to all of the lost income, and the Coolidge may take a little while to get back into financial shape.

“These shows, this is us just getting back in the game," he said. "This is not us, ‘Oh, hey, we’re back. We’re making money.’ Nobody’s really making money. I mean, things are trending better and improving here financially. But that continued support from our members, from the public, from donations, that’s really what’s getting us through these times, and we’re gonna really need to lean on that for I would think the next year at least.”

Even with those challenges, the prospect of welcoming back customers had everyone buzzing on Coolidge’s reopening day last Thursday.

Andrew Thompson, operations director at the theater, said it was big moment for the theater staff.

“We were very lucky, we had a few people [who] moved away, but almost everybody came back and has great availability at the moment," he said. "And I’m really looking forward to seeing them all, it’s kind of like having been cut off from part of my family.”

The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Mass., prepares to welcome a general audience for the first time in over a year, May 13, 2021.
Meredith Nierman/GBH News GBH News

Michael Barrette of Cambridge managed to be one of the lucky few who snagged tickets to the first public screening of “Get Out,” an appropriate selection for the welcome back. He was looking forward to the audience’s energy.

“And I like the big screen. You know, watching ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ on a small screen, I think you missed a lot there. I think we did. I don’t know ‘cause I never saw it in a movie theater," he said. "I think the big screen, the audience, the event nature of it, being able to invite your friends and have that kind of community feel to it, I think is really important.”

A mere 27 people were admitted and sat spaced for the screening. But after more than a year away, the faithful congregants were finally able to break their movie fast after they heard 'Enjoy the show!' and the lights went down.