Movie theaters reopen across Michigan Friday

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Movie theaters have been closed in Michigan since March. Now, after seven months of waiting, theaters can welcome moviegoers again.

“I’ve been very interested in watching movies,” said Deshun Bowles, attending one of the first showings of the day at Studio Park in downtown Grand Rapids. “Especially ‘Tenet,’ since it’s a Christopher Nolan movie, oh, dude, I’m so hyped for that.”

The movies are back in business and those that made the first showings in more than half a year were more than ready.

“Being able to sit down and actually watch a movie on a big screen and get a good sound system in — it’s absolutely insane to be able to do that again,” he said.

You will see the pandemic protections we’ve all grown accustomed to in recent months. But it’s what you don’t see that’s making a difference, such as improved air ventilation.

“I think that we’re handling it the best that we can,” said Bowles.

Michigan is one of the last states to reopen theaters. Because of that, Celebration Cinema was able to see what does and doesn’t work for more than 300 theater companies in the country.

“This is a plan that has now been put into action in 48 states across the country, and there hasn’t been a single case of COVID that’s been documented from a theater environment,” said Emily Loeks, director of community affairs at Celebration Cinema.

Open doors also mean jobs and there will be plenty to fill as time goes on.

“Initially, this opening weekend, we’ll have about 200-250 of our employees coming back to the six theaters which we’re able to open. We anticipate being able to bring back several hundred additional employees in the coming weeks,” she said.

And to hasten the hiring along, incentives are being introduced to get more people in the door.

“We’re encouraging people to purchase tickets online ahead of their arrival, and we’re waiving the online ticketing fee to make that more attractive of an option,” said Loeks.

Depending on the type of seating in the theater — recliners or traditional seats — they’ll operate at 2 to 40% capacity.

But theaters are ready to start building public confidence.

“This upcoming season with limited capacity is going to be economically challenging,” she said. “And yet we want the experience to be great and we think that we’ll emerge healthy on the other side of this if we do things right.”

AMC Theatres also plan to reopen with similar rules, including AMC Grand Rapids 18, AMC Holland 8 and AMC Portage Street 10.