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Movie theaters, big and small, in Milwaukee area announce plans to reopen

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- If you’ve missed the smell of buttered popcorn and the feel of recliner seats, you’re in luck. Some movie theaters in our area have announced plans to reopen this summer.

Marcus Theatres

Starting on June 19, six Marcus Theatres locations will reopen. Half are in the Milwaukee area: Marcus Ridge Cinema in New Berlin, Renaissance Cinema in Sturtevant and BistroPlex Southridge in Greendale. Rolando Rodriguez, the chairman, president and CEO of Marcus Theatres, is encouraging guests to buy tickets and concessions online, and wear masks when they come to the theaters.

"For us, this has been very painful being closed this long, and we're very excited about seeing all of (our customers) back soon... We're going to earn their confidence and rightfully so and they're going to feel safe, healthy and they're going to have a wonderful entertainment experience," said Rolando Rodriguez, the chairman, president and CEO of Marcus Theatres.

During the first phase of reopening, every movie at Marcus will cost $5 because they won't be showing first-run movies. Customers will only be able to watch movies that were popular when theaters first closed and some older classic movies like the Harry Potter series.

At first, Marcus Theatres locations will only be open four days a week, have limited hours and have staggered movie showings to allow staff time to clean the auditoriums after every movie. Rodriguez said the auditoriums will be set up as a "checkboard experience" meaning no customers will be sitting behind or next to a stranger.

"You'll be seated as couples. That's how you can purchase your tickets, and there will be two seats that will be empty on each side of you," Rodriguez said.

Oriental Theatre

There isn't a set reopening timeline for Oriental Theatre on Milwaukee's east side, according to Karina Henderson, marketing director for Milwaukee Film.

"We want to show movies and we want to bring people together, even though we've been offering movies in the virtual space, we all know it's not the same," Henderson said.

But she said staff at the Oriental Theatre are working on making changes for when they are able to open the doors. Those changes include limitations on audience sizes, limiting the amounts of surfaces people have to touch and placing limitations on concessions.

Like Marcus, Oriental Theatre also plans on changing seating arrangements.

"We're working on maps of our cinema seating so that we can have certain rows, certain seats designated as 'available' to make sure everybody is within a pretty safe distance," Henderson said.

Avalon Theater, Times Cinema and Rosebud Cinema

Lee Barczak and Jane Schilz own the Neighborhood Theater Group, which operates Avalon Theater and Times Cinema in Milwaukee, and Rosebud Cinema in Wauwatosa. At those theaters, customers can also expect to see changes of seating arrangements.

"There's absolutely no way we would just open it to general seating," Barczak said.

Barczak said the group's target reopening date for the theaters is July 1. However, that is dependent on several factors, including the content available. He said they have to figure out if there will be first-run content that they can carry or if they would follow the precedent set by other theater owners and bring back older films.

Several months ago, the theater group laid off all of its staff except for about five employees. Barczak said staffing could be a challenge in reopening.

"There's an awful lot of people out there who don't want to come back to work," Barczak said, explaining that many employees make too much money on unemployment.

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