EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – The coronavirus pandemic has hit the movie industry hard. Production studios have pushed back released dates, and theaters have been forced to close for months.
Due to Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s new executive order which was signed on Thursday, Showplace Cinemas will not be reopening its theaters until at least June 14, according to Showplace Cinemas President Mick Stieler.
Stieler says everything including tickets, popcorn, and drinks will only be $5 when theaters reopen to try to draw back crowds, and theaters will be down to 50% capacity for screenings.
Brandon Bartlett spoke with Stieler on what changes moviegoers can expect to see and sanitizing procedures which will be in place.
Brandon Bartlett: Mick Stieler thanks for joining us tonight. Who doesn’t like a night out at the movies? It’s something we haven’t been able to do since the pandemic began. But there are now plans in place for theaters to open once again. When does Showplace plan to reopen?
Mick Stieler: Well, last night, the governor pushed us back to phase four. So we cannot open till June the 14th.
Brandon Bartlett: What does that do to your plans?
Mick Stieler: Well, we were planning on opening June 5, so yeah, it’s pushing that back now.
Brandon Bartlett: Just like any other businesses that have reopened, I’m sure there will be some changes made what are some changes that people will immediately notice when they walk inside of your theaters?
Mick Stieler: Well, we’re not taking cash, it’ll be all credit card or gift card. Everything will be basically $5- $5 tickets, $5 popcorn, $5 drinks, no refills. You’re probably purchasing either all the tickets online or through a kiosk, we’re trying to limit the interaction with our workers as much as possible.
Brandon Bartlett: Will there be limited seating and how will that work?
Mick Stieler: You know, 50%. We’ll probably have two seats in between each person. It’s cut back quite a bit.
Brandon Bartlett: What about face masks? Are you requiring people who come to your theaters to wear face masks?
Mick Stieler: All our workers will have them, we will not require them because we’re going to stick to social distancing. We will have workers wiping down things and we’ll be opening the doors for everybody to come in and keep the doors to the auditoriums open till the movie starts and we will have increased intermission times. We will not be letting the customers get their own drinks, we will be getting the drinks for them and the popcorn butter, stuff like that and have a limited concession.
Brandon Bartlett: What about protections for your employees?
Mick Stieler: They’ll be using masks and gloves.
Brandon Bartlett: You said that there still will be concessions available like popcorn which may not be easy to eat if you’re wearing a mask.
Mick Stieler: You know when people get inside they’ll probably take the mask off.
Brandon Bartlett: Well let’s talk now about what movies we’ll be able to see there. Most movie studios are waiting until later in the year to release some new films. What does Showplace plan to show until those new movies start coming out?
Mick Stieler: Well, the first new movie will be Tenant on July the 17th. They did throw another one in on July the 1, a Russell Crowe movie called Unhinged. So there are a couple movies in July that they’re opening. But yes, the bigger movies have been pushed back until later in the year. When we first open, we’ll probably have half and half movies from the 70s and 80s and 90s. And the other half of movies that we took off at the time we shut down.
Brandon Bartlett: Talk about what has this pandemic done to the movie theater industry.
Mick Stieler: It’s killed it, to be honest. You know, we have not taken in a dime since March 17. And, you know, we’re struggling. I’m sure all theaters across the country are.
Brandon Bartlett: Have you laid off your employees? What is the situation with that? Are they coming back?
Mick Stieler: Well, you know, we did lay off every employee, so everybody was on unemployment, even myself. You know, we weren’t paying any salaries whatsoever. And I brought back three or four people right now to get ready and then as we get ready to open, we will start bringing them back.
Brandon Bartlett: Talk about the cleaning and how you’ll be deep cleaning there.
Mick Stieler: We’ll have a crew that will go around to each theater after the movie is over, you know, clean all the seats, the cupholders, everything you know, wouldn’t sanitizer. And they’ll be wiping down all the door handles and things and it will be same with the restrooms. We’ll be going through the restrooms probably every 15 minutes and wiping everything down, wiping down all counters. Anything that people will be touching will be wiped down.
Brandon Bartlett: Is there any concern about people wanting to go back to movie theaters because streaming services like Netflix obviously got a big boost during the pandemic and many people are now used to watching movies at home? Are you concerned about that? And is there anything that Showplace plans to do to get people back into your theaters?
Mick Stieler: Well, besides the reduced rates, I think that could be a huge, huge thing for us. And Hollywood’s going to really push going back to the movies. I think people were so tired of being at home. So you know, we’re really looking forward to serving our customers. And I think that’s a big plus for us.
Brandon Bartlett: You mentioned a push by Hollywood to get people back into theaters. Are you hearing anything that they plan to do?
Mick Stieler: Well, they’re gonna do little clips of things on Facebook and stuff like that just to promote going to the movies.
(This story was originally published on May 22, 2020)