The Utah-based Megaplex Theatres chain will reopen many of its movie houses next week for the first time since March, when theaters everywhere closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The chain, owned by the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, will open 12 of its 15 Utah locations starting Thursday night, June 18, the company announced in a tweet Thursday.
“We’ve been watching both the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and state government guidelines,” said Blake Andersen, president of Megaplex Theatres. “We felt confident about opening up with the safety measures we have in place. … We’re going into this with the most caution we can.”
The theaters will sell only 50 tickets per auditorium. Every other row is blocked off, and the ticketing software sets up a three-seat buffer between family groups in any row.
Employees will be given wellness checks, and wear gloves and masks at all times, the company said in a statement. The employees will be cleaning high-contact surfaces and areas regularly, sanitizing each occupied seat between showtimes, and washing their hands frequently.
The theaters will be “strongly encouraging” theatergoers to wear masks, and will have them available on request. Guests also will be asked to remain 6 feet away from other guests. People who are in high-risk groups are urged to stay home.
The company will expand cashless payment options and encourage guests to order concessions through the Megaplex mobile app for in-theater pick-up. Some menu items in the theaters’ food courts will be scaled back or suspended.
Three Megaplex locations in Utah — the University in Logan, and the Sunset Stadium and Main Street, both in St. George — will remain closed for now, according to the company. So will the Stadium 6 in Mesquite, which is following Nevada’s rules for when businesses will reopen.
The lineup of films being shown varies from theater to theater, but mostly it’s oldies (“Back to the Future,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” etc.) or recent hits (“Knives Out” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” among them). A few 2020 titles that debuted as video-on-demand — such as “Trolls World Tour” and “The High Note” — will screen in some locations.
New Hollywood blockbusters are set to open in July. The first big titles, Andersen said, are scheduled to be Disney’s live-action adaptation of “Mulan” on July 24, and director Christopher Nolan’s mind-twister “Tenet” on July 31.
“You’ll be seeing a lot of independent stuff, too,” Andersen said.
Smaller distributors are trying to beat “Mulan” and “Tenet” out of the gate. “The Outpost,” a combat drama set in Afghanistan and adapted from a book by CNN anchor Jake Tapper, is being touted as one of the first movies in theaters since the shutdown; it’s scheduled to open July 3. “Unhinged,” a revenge thriller starring Russell Crowe, is set to open July 10. And Sony Pictures announced this week it would open “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” a romantic comedy that lists singer/actor Selena Gomez as an executive producer, exclusively in theaters on July 10.
As the coronavirus pandemic started in March, Hollywood studios scrambled to reschedule their opening dates for blockbuster films for late summer, fall or next year. Some films — including the animated “Scoob!,” the Pete Davidson comedy “The King of Staten Island” and Disney’s fantasy adventure “Artemis Fowl” — were moved over to video-on-demand rental or streaming platforms.
The major national chains that operate theaters along the Wasatch Front — Cinemark, AMC and Regal — have yet to announce when they will be reopening. Neither has the nonprofit Salt Lake Film Society, which runs Salt Lake City’s two arthouse theaters, the Broadway Centre Cinemas and the Tower Theatre.
The Megaplex locations that are opening are:
• The Gateway, Salt Lake City.
• Valley Fair, West Valley City.
• Cottonwood, Holladay.
• Legacy Crossing, Centerville.
• Jordan Commons, Sandy.
• The District, South Jordan.
• Thanksgiving Point, Lehi.
• Geneva, Vineyard.
• Providence, Providence (Cache County).
• The Junction, Ogden.
• Cedar Stadium, Cedar City.
• Pineview, St. George.