Summer blockbusters expected to bolster movie theater revival

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan movie theaters are starting to see ticket sales improve as COVID-19 cases drop and vaccination rates increase.

Emily Loeks with Grand Rapids-based Celebration Cinema said the release of summer blockbuster films will help the industry recover.

For now, the movie theater is following state capacity limits, continuing enhanced sanitation and spacing groups out within the theater. Michigan’s capacity limits and the statewide mask mandate will be lifted July 1, after which virus mitigation rules will be up to each business.

“While those are being lifted, film distributors at the same time are getting more and more comfortable with releasing their big Hollywood films back into theaters and so we’re starting to see more of them,” Loeks said.

The theater company said the films are arriving at a crucial time.

“We lost 90% of our box office business over the course of a year. That’s brutal. We’re gradually working are way up from that,” Loeks said. “It has been the most challenging year in our 75-year history.”

Mary Yang and Lenny Newton headed to the Celebration on Grand Rapids’ northeast side to see a film for a date Friday afternoon.

“I have felt very safe,” Yang said.

The couple said nothing is better than the big screen experience.

“It’s a good chance to get out of the house and you know, because of COVID, everybody has been pretty much locked up and so it’s a chance to get out and reconnect with the world,” Newton said.  

Theaters are seeing competition from streaming services as studios release films at the same time they are available on the silver screen, but Loeks hopes more films will again be available in theaters first. She said that could help the industry recover.

“‘(A) Quiet Place (Part II)’ was released directly to theaters so we got an exclusive run of engagement for 60 days — that’s sort of a pre-pandemic norm — and it performed brilliantly,” Loeks said.

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