Clockwise from left, Don Lassen, property manager for River Park, Steven Baronian, marketing director, Tracy Kashian, VP of public relations and marketing and John Sass, general manager for Regal practice social distancing in the new rocking-style chairs that will be appearing throughout the theater. Photo by Edward Smith

published on March 31, 2021 - 1:13 PM
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Movie theaters are set for reopening Friday after screens went dark for nearly a year. This comes as Fresno, Madera, Kings, and Tulare counties have all entered the red tier, allowing for operations at 25% capacity.

Maya Cinemas at Campus Pointe near Fresno State is opening again on Friday.  

Social distancing and masks are required around the theater, but movie goers can enjoy concessions at their seats.

Regal Cinemas at Manchester is slated for reopening on April 16, and Regal Cinemas at River Park will reopen in May due to construction.

The inside of the former Edwards Theater is being completely renovated, and a brand new concessions area and bar are being installed. By the time of opening, slated for May 7, Regal will have 13 brand new theaters with luxury seating and new screens.

Matt Sconce, owner of Met Cinema in Oakhurst, is planning to reopen in May as well. He is leery about going full throttle because last summer, it didn’t last.

“Last time we went into the red tier, we were open five days, and then they closed us again. So we’re curious on how long we’ll stay in the red tier,” Sconce said.

Last time they rehired employees, paid for concessions and then had to bite the cost after closing down again.

Now, Sconce says the Met Cinema is launching into the process of reopening.

“When the theater’s been closed over a year, there’s a lot we have to do,” he said. 

The tasks ahead include rehiring employees, ordering food, fixing projectors and working with studios to show movies.

The server and projector are down and either need to be repaired to “limp it along,” or be replaced altogether. They’re never supposed to turn off, but Sconce had to because of the closure.

When he tried turning it back on, it stopped working.

“It’s very difficult to run a theater at 25%,” he said. “It’s hard to financially make it at 25% especially when you have big movies come out.”

The point of big movie launches is that crowds of people enter the theaters and bring in revenue through ticket sales and concessions. When movie theaters have to stop people from entering, it’s financially risky.  

“We’re going to navigate those waters as they come up,” he said. 

Through the rocky year, he’s said reopening wouldn’t be possible without his customer base. The membership-based theater kept half its members through the year, which helped pay power costs, bills and building maintenance. 

“Because of that, we’re going to come out on the other side of this pretty healthy,” Sconce said.

Sconce even saw that new customers signed up just to help with the costs.

“A ton of people just did it so the theater would stay alive,” Sconce said.

Sconce has big plans for the remainder of the year, and remains hopeful that opening will last. The May opening will be just in time to show “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Cruella.”

“We’ve been dreaming for this year,” Sconce said.

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