BELOIT — Area movie theaters are pulling out the popcorn and welcome mat as they reopen for business after an extended intermission due to the pandemic.
Classic Cinemas Beloit Theatre, 2799 Cranston Road, opened on April 15, and Wildwood Theatres 16, 3100 Deerfield Drive, Janesville, is set to open April 30 with the official grand opening set for May 7. Wildwood has all new seating and a red carpet lounge, and Beloit has renovations from top to bottom and has a fresh new look.
Classic Cinemas Beloit Theatre General Manager Max Wright said it was an amazing weekend as patrons arrived in full force to see “Mortal Kombat” and other flicks. Wright, who has worked on and off with the theater since high school, said it was great to see his patrons enjoying a night out again. He also was glad to see the many high school workers he manages back in action.
“Everyone was super excited, and we had a great response,” he said.
Movie goers in Beloit are getting a first look at many new amenities at the renovated theater such as its new vestibule and renovated auditoriums and updated concession area, according to Classic Cinemas CEO Chris Johnson.
“The auditoriums are done and are spectacular. Every wall, seat, sound system and projection has been redone. We replaced every single heating and air conditioning unit. Not only will people get fresh air, but it will be the warm or cool temperature that was needed,” Johnson said.
Classic Cinemas took over Schubert’s Luxury 10 Theatre in November of 2019 and has been making improvements such as adding new reclining and temperature-control seats and increasing wall thickness to prevent sound from being heard from neighboring rooms. Based in Downers Grove, Illinois, Classic Cinemas is a family-owned movie exhibitor with 15 locations in northern Illinois including its one Wisconsin site in Beloit. The Beloit theater has 10 screens.
Johnson said Classic Cinemas will be adding some accents to the exterior of the building to make it more apparent it’s open and continue to improve the facility as it works to build up its audience again.
“It’s still our intention to keep tweaking the building to make it better and better. All auditoriums are in great shape with new reclining chairs,” he said. “We are really ready to go. We are trying to build the audience so we can expand the hours. Our biggest issue right now is letting everyone know we are open.”
Johnson explained how the Beloit theater closed due to COVID-19. but reopened in May with health guidelines while showing some classic films. The theater was only open for six weeks before closing again.
However, in its short time back people are already giving rave views.
Johonson said when Classic Cinemas took over, the Beloit theater had a Google rating of 3.8.
“Today it’s 4.7. To go from 3.8 to a 4.7 speaks for itself,” Johnson said. “We are going to do everything we possibly can to have people engaged and excited about coming.”
Currently Beloit’s theater is open for matinees Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and other days opening at 3:30 p.m. with late shows offered on Friday and Saturday nights.
Johnson thanked everyone for being so supportive during an extremely challenging year, often sending kind messages on Facebook.
“It’s so heartwarming that people care,” he said. “We put every last penny into making it through the pandemic. We are here for the long term. We will absolutely thrive once the new movies come more often.”
Johnson said people might enjoy watching TV and movies at home, but a movie theater is still a special night out.
“You are not going to come to us every night. Just like you have a kitchen, you still go out to the restaurant sometimes,” he said. “There is every reason to get out and be amongst people.”
Johnson noted there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 outbreaks stemming from movie theaters. He said he considers it one of the safer spaces as people are facing forward, not talking a lot and are spread out.
Each group that comes in together is separated by two seats and masks are required in the common areas and when not snacking. Johnson said there are also a lot less people than in many other busier businesses. The number of seats has been reduced and there are better air filters and more fresh air circulating.
“It’s a very safe place to assemble comparatively,” he said.