SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Exactly one year after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered California on COVID-19 lockdown, we’re seeing a little more light at the end of the tunnel.

The smell of hot butter popcorn is back in action as movie lovers rush to watch the big screen.

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“It’s like being in your living room but only better,” said Merrick Hamilton, who brought his family to the theater to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.

Friday marked the first time in nearly a year that movie theaters are allowed to reopen in Sacramento County.

“We have been looking forward to this for a long time. The popcorn, the theater, the whole experience,” explained Mia Omega who brought her daughter and son Cole to the movies.

For Cinemark theaters, it’s been a year since they’ve opened up their doors in Sacramento County, but this time it looks different.

“Usually we are all jammed packed with other people next to us, this time it was just us. it was kind of cool,” said Cole Omega.

COVID precautions include contactless tickets, seat buffering technology for social distancing, frequent cleanings and you can even watch your favorite flick in a private screening for $99 to $150, based on the movie.

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“One thing we heard from them in our initial reopening phases is that they wanted the opportunity to stay within their trusted group,” explained Caitlin Piper, Sr. Manager of Public Relations for Cinemark Theaters.

“It feels pretty special and exciting,” explained Malia Gay, whose family booked a private showing.

“We didn’t want to go to the theater with other people, we had this unique experience that Cinemark lets you come and rent the whole place to yourself, so you don’t have to worry about taking your mask off around other people you don’t know,” explained mother, Maryellen Gay.

Some customers at Tower Theater spent their day preparing for opening night with new 25% capacity rules.

“I was worried that they might sell out but I wasn’t sure. I actually came like four hours ago to buy tickets in advance,” said Dominic Mazotti.

For most, it’s not about what’s on the screen, but the ability to see it.

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“We have some long-term cabin fever going on and I’m just really relieved to be outside and doing something that it feels like I’m allowed to be outside, said Tower Theater customer, Jae Hee Ha.