By Darlene Donloe
BALDWIN HILLS — For the first time since movie theaters were shuttered a year ago at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Patricia McAllister, a self-proclaimed “movie fan,” was able to watch a feature film inside of the Cinemark movie theater at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
McAllister was one of many moviegoers who ventured into the theater during its first full opening weekend.
“I love movies,” said McAllister, a Chicago native who has lived in Los Angeles for 18 years. “I’m so happy the theater is open again. I was here [March 19] and watched ‘The Little Things’ and ‘Judas and the Black Messiah.’
“Today, I saw ‘The Marksman’ and ‘Monster Hunter.’ I’m coming back [March 21] to see something.”
According to industry reports, after a yearlong shutdown that severely impacted the film industry, the movie-going population regained their confidence with 75 theaters bringing in $1.55 million in ticket sales in Los Angeles area theaters polled by Comscore, an American media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to the industry.
While there wasn’t a hung influx of patrons at the Cinemark, there was a steady stream of moviegoers throughout the day, all either walking out or walking in with huge smiles.
Marchelle Hopper brought her 7-year-old son Kevin to see the animated film, “Tom & Jerry.”
“I loved it,” he said.
His mother admitted being confused about the opening of the theater.
“I’m happy that it’s open, but I question what has changed since last March,” Hopper said. “Nothing has changed. We’re in the same position right now that we were in last year this time. So why was the theater closed for a year? I think the government wanted population control. They wanted to control us and monitor us. It makes no sense.”
Gaby Leanos, 35, an operations manager, brought her 9-year-old daughter Camila to see “The Croods: A New Age.”
“It was really good,” Camila said.
Leanos said she had not been in a theater since February 2020.
“Before the lockdown, we used to come often to see movies,” Leanos said. “It was disappointing when the theater closed, but we understood it was for our safety.”
Friends, MJ Degas, 25, and Taty Eggleston, 24, came to the theater to see “Croods” because they both wanted “to just get out.”
“There were less than 20 people in our theater,” Degas said. “It was pretty cool. I felt safe. I’d come back.”
Silvin Gonzales, 31, an accountant, brought her son, Adrian, 13, to see “Tom & Jerry.”
“It’s been a whole year since we’ve been able to go to a movie,” Gonzales said. “It was good to be able to get out and enjoy a movie.”
“I was so glad to get out because staying at home has been boring,” Adrian said. “I’m ready to go back to school.”
Everyone who came out of the theater said they felt safe inside the theater. They were socially distanced, and everyone who wasn’t eating wore masks.
“I felt safe because I bought the tickets in advance,” Leanos said. “We were able to pick our seats prior to the movie. Every transaction was contactless. No one was next to us. We ate popcorn and drank in the theater, but there were no refills.”
McAllister said she felt “completely safe” being inside a theater with other patrons.
“The theater was very clean,” she said. “I had no problems. Everyone was socially distanced. There was no one in the row in front of me, and no one in the row in the back of me. I’ll be back.”
In a statement released March 12, Cinemark Holdings, Inc., considered one of the world’s largest movie theater companies, said all of its theaters in the Los Angeles area would reopen by March 15, with enhanced cleaning and safety protocols, which have consistently received a 96% guest satisfaction rating.
“Cinemark is thrilled to once again offer Los Angeles movie lovers the chance to see a movie on our big screens with sight and sound technology that truly cannot be replicated at home,” Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said. “Los Angeles is one of the most meaningful movie-going markets in the world and we look forward to providing moviegoers the entertainment experience they have been craving with the health and safety protocols they can trust. With an extensive list of blockbusters set to release in the coming months and nearly 90% of our U.S. circuit open, there is no better time to get back to the theatre.”
Cinemark insists that the health and safety of employees, guests and communities is a top priority. All Cinemark theaters have the Cinemark Standard, greatly enhanced cleanliness, sanitizing and safety measures at every step of the movie-going experience. Employees undergo extensive training on all new protocols and wear face masks while working, in addition to completing a wellness check-in prior to every shift.
Each theater also has a designated chief clean and safety monitor on duty to ensure the highest standards of safety, physical distancing, cleanliness and sanitization.
Cinemark’s new protocols include each auditorium being extensively disinfected between movies with products identified by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to be effective in eliminating COVID-19. Theaters have staggered show times and limited capacities to maximize physical distancing.
Seat-buffering technology automatically blocks seats adjacent to a party upon ticket purchase.
Face masks are mandatory for all guests within the theater and may only be removed for eating and drinking in the auditoriums. Face masks also are required for all employees.
All public and high-touch spaces are thoroughly sanitized frequently and ample supplies of seat wipes and hand sanitizer are available for customers.
Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets online and use contactless payment methods for a more contact-free experience. With that, cash payment options will be limited.
Cinemark’s advanced, three-point air quality standard is designed to deliver an abundant supply of fresh outdoor air, maintain optimal circulation and eliminate pollutants.
Cinemark is substantially raising the fresh-air rate of building ventilation systems by constantly utilizing supply fans to increase the total volume of fresh, outside air flowing into theaters.
Each auditorium within the theater has its own heating and air conditioning system, which consistently diffuses fresh air from the ceiling down toward the floor where it is then returned to the filtration equipment, constantly refreshing the air.
The local Cinemark reopened with some of 2021’s newest movies, including “Tom & Jerry: The Movie,” “Chaos Walking,” “Boogie,” “Long Weekend,” “The Courier” and “Wonder Woman 1984.”
Tickets for “Godzilla vs. Kong” are now on sale for its March 31 premiere.
In the coming weeks and months, moviegoers will be able to see “Mortal Kombat,” “Black Widow,” “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway,” “Cruella,” “A Quiet Place Part II,” and more.
Those looking for a more exclusive movie-going experience and the ability to stay within their trusted group can book a private watch party. A Cinemark private watch party offers guests the opportunity to rent an entire auditorium for up to 20 people to watch a film of their choice with the group of their choice. Private watch parties are $99 for comeback classics and $149 for new films and can be reserved with just a few simple clicks on the Cinemark website or app.
In addition to new films, Cinemark will offer more than 20 comeback classic movies for private watch parties, including “A League of Their Own,” “Clue,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Stuart Little,” “Thelma and Louise” and more.