‘It’s nice to get out’: Moviegoers return to the theaters as Cinemark reopens in North Texas (2024)

PLANO — Theater 4 smelled more like disinfectant and cleaning products than freshly-popped popcorn.

A dozen people were spread out in the theater at Cinemark’s West Plano location on Friday for a 1:05 p.m. screening of The Invisible Man, starring Elisabeth Moss.


Tony Johnson and Hannah Potter were not just the first people inside theater 4 on Friday, they were Cinemark’s first customers since the theater closed in March. They arrived just as the theater’s staff had one final stand-up meeting before opening the doors.


“I love the movies,” Potter said. “I used to come as often as possible, so I was really sad when they closed.”

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‘It’s nice to get out’: Moviegoers return to the theaters as Cinemark reopens in North Texas (1)

Cinemark is the first major theater chain in North Texas to open its doors, welcoming customers Friday at locations in West Plano, McKinney and northwest Dallas off of Webb Chapel. It will resume operations at other locations on a rolling basis in the coming weeks.


Theaters were allowed to resume screenings with audiences up to 25% capacity starting May 1 under Phase I of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas, but many chains — including AMC, Alamo Drafthouse, Cinépolis, Studio Movie Grill, Regal Cinemas, Landmark Theatres and Angelika Film Centers — have been waiting.

“I’m more of a Netflix-at-home guy, but it’s nice to get out,” Johnson said.

Less than 10 minutes into the movie, just as Moss’ character was trying to sneak out of bed without her boyfriend noticing, a man in the theater coughed. He wasn’t wearing a mask, but there was plenty of space between him and other moviegoers.


To limit capacities and promote social distancing, when a Cinemark guest selects a seat for a movie online, two seats on either side of it are automatically blocked off.


Cinemark is taking several steps to ensure the safety of employees and moviegoers. Those measures include sanitizing high-touch surfaces such as door handles, drink stations and ticket kiosks every 30 minutes, as well as sanitizing handrails and seats between showtimes.

‘It’s nice to get out’: Moviegoers return to the theaters as Cinemark reopens in North Texas (2)

Cinemark no longer requires paper tickets, encouraging customers to buy their tickets online, and cash payments are not accepted at concession stands.


“We want to make sure when we actually opened we could create a safe environment for customers and employees,” said Sean Gamble, Cinemark’s chief operating officer.

Cinemark employees undergo health screenings before each shift and are required to wear masks. Guests are “strongly encouraged” to wear masks, but they are not mandatory, according to Cinemark.

At the theater on Friday, it seemed as though at least more than half of customers were complying by wearing masks, even if they had to lift them up for bites of popcorn and sips of soda.

Dr. Philip Huang, Dallas County Health and Human Services director, recommends all moviegoers wear a mask even if seats are spaced apart.


“Because it’s an enclosed space for a long period of time,” Huang said of attending a movie.

Cinemark said it would comply with any local policies requiring the use of masks in businesses. That will now include locations in Dallas County, where a mask mandate goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday. Businesses that do not comply could face a fine of up to $500 per violation.

New order requires Dallas County businesses to mandate masks on premises

Harry LaRosiliere, the mayor of Plano where Cinemark is headquartered, cosigned a letter on Tuesday asking Abbott for the power to require residents to wear masks in public. The letter was also signed by the mayors of Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Arlington and Grand Prairie.


Dan Dunham, who went to see The Invisible Man by himself on Friday, said he felt safe inside the theater even as COVID-19 cases rise across North Texas. He said he usually watches about 35 movies per year.

“I’ve been missing this just as much as anything,” said Dunham, who was wearing a blue surgical mask and had a bottle of hand sanitizer on his tray next to his popcorn and soft drink.

For now, many of the movies screening at Cinemark will be films most people could stream online. Many major blockbusters, such as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and a new live-action Mulan, were pushed back as theaters across the world closed.

In the meantime, Cinemark will screen Hollywood classics, including Space Jam, Back to the Future and Jaws, at a cheaper price, along with more recent films such as the 2017 thriller Get Out and Sonic the Hedgehog, which came out in February.


‘It’s nice to get out’: Moviegoers return to the theaters as Cinemark reopens in North Texas (3)

Even though it’s more than 30 years old, Back to the Future has been among the classics driving ticket sales this weekend, according to Gamble. Screening classic movies first gives employees and customers a “ramp-up” period before new films are released in July, Gamble said.

“People have been sheltering for so long they’re looking for things to do,” Gamble said.

Still, Huang points to Dallas County’s color-coded chart with recommendations on how, and when, they can participate in daily activities. The chart — created by public health, epidemiology and infectious disease experts — currently has Dallas County’s risk level in the red category, indicating a high community risk for COVID-19 transmission.


“At this stage, given that we’re seeing record numbers of cases and hospitalizations, we would not recommend going to the movies,” Huang said. “You always have to make a risk assessment. How important for you is it to see this movie vs. seeing it on Netflix?”

Cinemark lays off more workers in Plano even as it reopens theaters
‘It’s nice to get out’: Moviegoers return to the theaters as Cinemark reopens in North Texas (2024)


‘It’s nice to get out’: Moviegoers return to the theaters as Cinemark reopens in North Texas? ›

Cinemark is the first major theater chain in North Texas to welcome patrons amid rising COVID cases. Theaters were allowed to reopen up to 25% starting May 1, but many chains have been waiting. PLANO — Theater 4 smelled more like disinfectant and cleaning products than freshly-popped popcorn.

Are people returning to movie theaters? ›

More of us have been leaving our couches behind and heading back to theaters. Ticket sales topped $9 billion in 2023. In its latest investor report in February, Cinemark labeled 2023 as the year the movie industry finally recovered from the pandemic.

Is cinema making a comeback? ›

After a long period of low theater attendance, in 2023 the cinemas saw the return of grand audiences, with films such as “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” Undoubtedly, these releases exemplified that theaters can be one of the most unifying places in the world where many can find themselves alongside people they may have ...

How are movie theaters doing in 2024? ›

Cinemas have yet to reclaim their pre-COVID glory – and during the first few months of 2024, visits to AMC and Regal, and to a lesser extent Cinemark, remained substantially below 2019 levels.

Why do people not go to movie theaters anymore? ›

Viewers don't have to go to movie theaters anymore now that movies and TV shows are on streaming services or can be illegally pirated at home. Watching movies from home is an easier and a cheaper alternative. Beyond the price of tickets, inflation has caused food prices to go up.

Are people going back to the cinema? ›

Audiences are returning to movie theatres after the Covid interval, dispelling fears they would continue to seek their entertainment only from streaming platforms in the comfort of the couch. Companies running theatre chains are reporting strong numbers based on geographical spread.

Why is cinema declining? ›

One reason for the decline is plain economics. The cost of a movie ticket is increasing, far faster than inflation. So the movie theater is becoming less affordable. Since 2002, the price of an average movie ticket has increased 9% in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Why is no one going to the movies? ›

In recent years, there has been a surge in movie ticket pricing, which has been turning people off. Additionally, movies hit streaming services and digital weeks after films are released in theaters, barely giving these movies room to breathe.

Why are theaters struggling? ›

Professional nonprofit theaters across the country are still struggling to attract patrons who stopped attending live shows during the COVID-19 pandemic, and shifts in audience behavior combined with depleted federal support will likely conspire to create an even more uncertain future for performing arts organizations, ...

What happens to old movie theaters? ›

Once grandiose palaces with domed ceilings and ornate plasterwork, hundreds of movie theaters—from New York to Detroit to Hollywood—now stand in ruins. Many others have been converted into nightclubs and bingo halls, churches and bookstores.

Are people going less to the cinema? ›

The data indicates that cinema attendance has gradually rebounded in subsequent years, but as of 2023, it still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

How long do movie theaters keep movies? ›

How long do movies stay in theaters? Generally less than 60 days, but it may be longer, depending on the circ*mstances.

Are movie theaters struggling? ›

The pandemic and the rise of the small screen have created a financial challenge for the entire movie theater industry. Although ticket sales were up in 2023 over 2022 (825M versus 813M), they are still falling short of the 1.2B sold in 2019, according to Statista.

How popular are movie theaters now? ›

That year, attendance at AMC's movie theaters added up to more than 200 million, up from 75 million in 2020. But the 2022 figure amounted to little more than half of the 356-million attendance the company reported in 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak.

What is the outlook for the movie theater industry? ›

Revenue in the Cinema market is projected to reach US$79.22bn in 2024. Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2024-2029) of 5.68%, resulting in a projected market volume of US$104.40bn by 2029. In the Cinema market, the number of viewers is expected to amount to 1.9bn users by 2029.

Is a good person coming to theaters? ›

Watch in theaters now.

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