Marc Priore of West Seneca described Friday's reopening of the Dipson Flix Stadium 10 in Depew as "awesome."
"My wife and I are just thrilled," Priore said as he waited in the theater lobby for a refill of his popcorn. He and his wife were waiting to watch the thriller "Unhinged," which stars Russell Crowe.
"I'm happy to be back, even on an 80-degree day," he added.
It wasn't a large crowd that showed up for the early matinee at the theater at 4901 Transit, which featured eight different films on 10 screens.
Tracy Janis, district manager for Dipson Theatres, said sales were looking pretty good, given the state-imposed restrictions on movie theater reopenings.
"Prior to opening today, we had about 50 pre-sale tickets, which is more than average for a typical Friday at this point in the year, in between the summer movie season and the holiday movie season," Janis said.
The theater chain said it will observe all state and local regulations and will follow its own procedures.
"We've definitely spread the word through the media. Flix is the one theater out of all the Dipson locations where we have a mobile text club sign up," she added as she switched between authenticating a customer's pre-paid ticket and tending to the theater's popcorn maker.
"Let me just flip the popcorn so I don't burn it," Janis said to the customer.
Janis said she sent out a text message Thursday to about 2,800 patrons who are signed up for the theater's mobile text club, letting them know that the theater is back in business.
Flix Stadium 10 and all movie theaters in New York State have been closed since March, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As far as new films to market go, Janis noted that the theater is not featuring any big blockbusters this weekend, such as a new Star Wars or Marvel movie opening.
Many of those films, such as the Wonder Woman sequel and the new James Bond movie, have been pushed back, she said, adding that there is still a lot of product that has yet to debut on the big screen because of the pandemic.
"There's a lot of things that the people are looking forward to. And there's a little bit of something for everyone. But just given the fact that we can only run at 25% capacity, I'm about a quarter of the way to being sold out on some of these shows," Janis said.
"It shows that people really want to come back to the movies. So we do have a fan base," she added.
For the first time in seven months, most Western New Yorkers will be able to buy a movie ticket Friday and escape to a darkened theater with a bucket of popcorn.
Asked if he missed going to the movies, George Swiger of Alden replied, "heck, yeah!"
Swiger said he attends the movies at least once a month. Friday, he attended with a friend who was visiting from out of state.
"It was 'Unhinged,'" Swiger replied, when asked which film they saw.
"I was unhinged the whole time. It was very intense. Great movie," he said.
While some new movie releases are available for streaming directly to one's home, that is not how many people want to experience new movies, Janis said.
"Not everyone wants to go directly to streaming. They want to have a theatrical release experience," she said.
Swiger agreed, noting that the size of the screen, the atmosphere of the theater and even the booming sound coming from theater speakers adds to the experience.
"When the intense moments come on, it gets real loud and the sound is just great. ," he said.
Janis said patrons are being encouraged to purchase their tickets online, either through the Dispon Theaters website or Fandango.com. Otherwise, customers can get their tickets on a first-come-first-served basis.
"We've switched over to a system where everything is reserved seating, and we have separated seating so every other row is empty. So you won't have anyone seated in front of or behind you," Janis said.
"And then our system is also set up where when one seat is sold, it will block off the next three seats to the left of it. So you will be social distancing. No one will be in six feet of you," she added.
Along with social distancing, she said the theater follows all state-mandated protocols that are required for safety against the Coronavirus, including sanitizing surfaces and the wearing of personal protective equipment or a facial mask.
"We're ready to welcome everyone back," Janis said.
"We ask that all of our guests have masks, except for when they're seated and they're eating their popcorn, obviously, they can take it off. If someone, for medical reasons, they don't have the capability of wearing a mask or they have certain medical needs, we do have face visors for sale," Janis added.
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