Despite being able to reopen, many movie theaters remain dark

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The Cinemagic in Hooksett remains closed. Courtesy Photo

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NASHUA, NH – Despite the ability to re-open their doors this past Monday, the majority of movie theaters across the state of New Hampshire have remained closed.

However, all Chunky’s Cinema Pub locations – in Nashua, Manchester and Pelham – chose to open Monday when they were allowed to operate under Gov. Sununu’s direction.

“It went very well,” said Robert Skinner, the general manager of the Nashua location. “We had some classics showing, and those are what we will be showing through the middle of August until Hollywood starts releasing new content.”

All theaters statewide, when they open, will need to reduce capacity by 50 percent, increase cleanings between showings, and implement other health and safety protocols. A full food menu is available at all Chunky’s locations.

“We have increased our social distancing between our tables,” Skinner said. “We have increased our cleaning procedures making sure we hit all of the high touchpoints, and have installed signs to remind guests about social distancing, and all of our staff is in masks. We are super excited to be back open.”

At 50 percent capacity, Chunky’s in Nashua, according to Skinner, can accommodate roughly 500 guests through the eight theaters. 

“We were a little shy of capacity (at 50 percent),” Skinner said. “All the customers seemed to be in great spirits to be able to get out of the house and come down, watch a movie on the big screen, and get some dinner at the same time. We had a good turnout, it certainly keeps us optimistic.”

Chunky’s is currently showing a “pretty wide mix” of selections from Jaws, Ghostbusters, Trolls World Tour, The Greatest Showman, Despicable Me, among others.

“We were optimistic (about turnout),” Skinner said. “We have seen restaurants that have opened in the area and they have had good attendance. People are looking for some sense of normalcy; and to be able to escape home confinement. We are a two-for-one shop; come watch a movie and get dinner all at once without visiting multiple locations and multiple crowds.”

Cinemark Rockingham Park and XD in Salem remains closed. Cinemark announced Tuesday some of its theaters across the country will open Friday, July 24 with additional theatres reopening in subsequent weeks.  

NH Chunky’s Cinema Pub theaters, including the newest one in Manchester, will continue showing “classic” films until new movies are released, likely in August. File Photo

“Our multi-phased reopening plan was thoughtfully designed with multiple contingencies in place that enable us to efficiently adapt to today’s ever-changing environment,” said Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi in a statement. “We continue to pay close attention to the status of the virus, local mandates and availability of new content while prioritizing the health and safety of our guests, employees and communities. The health and safety of employees, guests and communities is a top priority. All Cinemark theatres will boast The Cinemark Standard upon reopening with greatly enhanced cleanliness, sanitizing and safety measures at every step of the moviegoing experience. Each theatre will also have a designated Chief Clean and Safety Monitor on duty to ensure the highest standards of safety, physical distancing, cleanliness and sanitization.”

Regal Cinemas, which has locations in Hooksett, Concord and Newington, plans to reopen all its U.S. theaters on July 31 instead of its previously announced date of July 10. 

“In line with recent changes to upcoming film release dates, we have made the decision to move our reopening date to July 31,” Regal Cinemas corporate owner Cineworld said in a statement. “With the on-going pandemic, this new date remains subject to final confirmation.”

Ethan Guglielmo, a 2019 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, and a sophomore at Georgia Tech, would go to the movies three or four times a month before the COVID pandemic.

“I was planning on going back to theaters since it was going to be 50 percent capacity and wearing masks, but now with the spike (in cases) going up, I am a little more hesitant but still plan on going when more theaters open later in July,” said Guglielmo, a Hampton resident and chemical and biomolecular major.

Hollywood has pushed back the release of all of its movies to late July and August. The one movie Guglielmo is looking forward to seeing is Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.” It is now scheduled to come out Aug. 12.

“That’s definitely the one I want to see,” he said. “I really like (Nolan) and I loved all the trailers and it looks like a super fun, interesting movie.”

Other popular movies with its rescheduled release dates include Russell Crowe’s “Unhinged” (July 31), Disney’s live-action “Mulan” (Aug. 21), “Bill and Ted Face the Music” (Aug. 28) and “Wonder Woman 1984” (Oct. 2).

The Colonial Theater in Bethlehem hopes to open its one-screen venue in the middle of July.

We’re going to adhere to everything the state is asking theaters to do,” said Stephen Dignazio, executive director of The Friends of Colonial Theater. “I don’t want anybody to get sick, my staff, or my customers.”

The Colonial Theater, which can accommodate roughly 60 people under new guidelines, shows first-run, independent and foreign films.

“We have polled our members, our volunteers, and supporters who are not members, and it’s trending about 50/50 on those who would like to come see a movie and those who are are still not comfortable,” Dignazio said. 

O’Neil Cinemas in Epping does not have a scheduled reopening date.

“We are keeping a close eye on CDC, local, and state government guidelines to make the movie-going experience when we open again as safe and enjoyable as possible,” said Loni Dirksen, marketing manager at O’Neil’s. “Although some states are allowing theaters to open now or soon, we also need to keep an eye on what movie studios are doing. As they delay the release of their new films to theaters, unfortunately, we need to delay our opening day. There are always a lot of moving targets with everything involved in COVID-19.”


These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.