DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (CBS) — The Oscars may be coming at the end of the month, but movie buffs are already talking about the year ahead.
“A Rock-’Em, Sock-’Em Sign Of Hope” is how Rotten Tomatoes describes the current box office success of “Godzilla versus Kong.” It’s one the first blockbusters available on the big screen since the coronavirus pandemic began.
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CBS 2’s Lauren Victory shows us Thursday how the return of Hollywood hits is inspiring theater owners here at home.
For CBS 2’s third visit to Classic Cinemas this pandemic, we encountered a different theme: confidence.
“We wanted to do this to give the audience more of a variety of films to play,” said Classic Cinemas chief executive officer Chris Johnson.
Johnson felt sure enough in the industry to install a fancy new theater at the Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove, despite a rollercoaster year.
When he staffed up and ordered snacks in June, theater capacity limits had him worried. Sure enough, that cap on seating and the lack of Hollywood hits being released led to a CBS 2 follow-up story after Johnson decided to shut down temporarily after the re-opening attempt.
“We did about 10 percent of what we normally do,” Johnson said when we caught up with him in September.
Nine months after the closure, the company is trying again.
Victory: “What made you say this time around, ‘OK, we’re going to open?”
Johnson: “Initially, it was the lineup of the films. It seemed like the slate was developing and there was going to be consistent product.”
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Wiggle room on audience size helped too. The state initially only said 50 people could attend a show in the more than 1,000-seat auditorium at Tivoli Theatre, but now, around 250 guests are allowed.
“That made it viable again,” Johnson said. “So we were very excited.”
Scott Dehn is also feeling good about the upcoming season at his drive-in theater, the McHenry Outdoor Theater.
“There’s still some restrictions, but nowhere near what it was a year ago at this time,” Dehn said.
Social distancing is still required, but you can watch a movie without your mask – and concessions will finally be back.
“We’ll have a new screen which makes a nice, bright, clear picture,” Dehn said.
The McHenry Outdoor Theater was immensely popular last year, but could only welcome half a regular crowd.
“I felt so bad because we had hundreds of cars out in the street that just wanted to do something, you know, just get outside – and I could only let in what I could let in,” Dehn said.
All 800 spots are available starting April 30.
Classic Cinemas opens April 15.
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“It’s going to be thrilling, exciting,” said Johnson. “I just can’t wait.”