Social distancing wouldn’t be a problem for the first handful of movie fans to show up on Thursday afternoon as AMC Theatres reopened its two Missoula locations.
Reece Hogstad and Cassie Ludwig, two University of Montana freshmen, arrived after 5 p.m. in the mostly empty sunbaked lot, which was occasionally enlivened by a motorist driving by to inspect the posters on the exterior wall before leaving. It will take time for customers to re-adjust, and after all, it was a weekday.
These two were here to see “Jurassic Park,” one of the AMC Classic 12 on Reserve Street’s inaugural offerings. The chain closed its theaters in March during the early period of the pandemic and has kept them shuttered ever since.
They would be customers Nos. 4 and 5, narrowly behind a woman and child who appeared to be the lone attendees who showed up in time for the first movie.
The two Columbus natives were looking “for something to do” around town while much of the usual entertainment for students, like concerts, are off, and they settled for a fun classic rather than a new release.
The AMC on Reserve Street is reopening with a mix of blockbusters from the vault, like Spielberg's “Raiders of the Lost Ark." The newer movies include Russell Crowe’s thriller “Unhinged,” and a YA drama, “Words on Bathroom Walls.” The AMC Dine-In Southgate 9 at the mall, meanwhile, has Marvel’s “The New Mutants.”
These appear to be a warm-up for Christopher Nolan's “Tenet,” which promises all the high-budget locations and narrative novelties of “Inception.” The AMC website is listing “early access” screenings as early as Monday, with its “official” run beginning Sept. 3.
For fans of seeing film on a big screen, options have improved since the stay-at-home orders were lifted in April. The nonprofit Roxy Theater shows movies on Thursdays at Ogren-Allegiance Park, and it opened an outdoor area behind its building on Higgins Avenue, called the Roxy Movie Garden, which shows films on Fridays through Sundays, and made its indoor theaters available for private rentals. Elsewhere around Montana, the Pharoahplex in Hamilton has put on drive-in showings such as concerts and classics, and Bozeman has the Star-lite.
Questions about safety procedures were referred to an AMC media line. A message wasn’t returned, but the website has detailed descriptions of protocols that theaters across the country generated together. Masks are required and “neck gaiters, open-chin bandanas and masks with vents or exhalation valves are not acceptable.” You may take yours off while eating or drinking in the theater.
The individual auditorium capacities have been reduced to 40% or less. Seats reserved online will automatically block out spaces around you.
Cash will be accepted for tickets but not at the concessions stand. At the Dine-In Theater at Southgate Mall, you can order food at a window, and it will be brought to your seat.
Regarding cleaning, AMC says that it is disinfecting auditoriums between screenings with “electrostatic disinfectant sprayers,” vacuuming carpets with HEPA filter vacuums, cleaning frequently touched surfaces through the day, and treating its rooms with filtered HVAC systems.