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Movie-goers make cautious return to theaters



TEXARKANA, Texas — With the local Cinemark movie theater recently reopened, Texarkana moviegoers may be tempted to return to the cozy seats and popcorn treats at the cineplex.
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Cinemark initiated new cleaning and safety measures at the Plano, Texas-based movie theater chain’s locations across the country. They include regular cleaning and a face-covering requirement.
Also added to the film-going mix are various enticements to lure moviegoers back to the movies, possibly a difficult sell.
Private watch parties offer patrons their own private screening with up to 20 guests. Essentially, this offer provides your own auditorium for family and friends, starting at $99, where all can watch one of the fan favorite flicks.
What are billed as « Comeback Classics » can be seen for the discounted admission of $5 for adults, $3 for children and senior citizens, with these « welcome-back ticket prices » touted at the Cinemark website. A package deal is also available for auditorium rental with these classics.
Such classics include « Jurassic Park, » « Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, » « The Goonies, » « Back to the Future, » « Raiders of the Lost Ark » and « Inception. »
New movies at Cinemark theaters include « Tenet, » which is the new movie directed by Christopher Nolan, and both « The New Mutants » and « Unhinged. » « The Personal History of David Copperfield, » starring Dev Patel, is another new movie that companies like Cinemark hope will draw audiences.
Cylas Langdon, a Texarkana nurse and blogger, was so ready to go back to the movies that she chose to do a private watch party.
« We did the private viewing, and it was just me and my parents and my spouse, » Langdon said. « Super impressed with how they had all plexiglass up where you didn’t really have to come into contact with anyone. They had replaced all the chairs in there with faux-leather. It looks like they’re wiping everything down between the movies, which made me feel a lot more comfortable than those old cloth chairs. »
They were able to get popcorn and whatever else they needed. They watched « The Goonies, » a movie from her childhood, on a mid-afternoon Sunday. With only a group of four in attendance, she felt OK.
« With it just being us in the room, I felt safe, » Langdon said, noting it felt « awesome » to have the entire theater to themselves. She’d go back again, she said, feeling the seating is more sanitary.
« We’ve always been big movie people, » Langdon said.
Local musician Mark Braley took his teen daughters to Cinemark, where they saw « The New Mutants. » He said he wasn’t too worried because at 1 p.m. on a Saturday there wouldn’t be a ton of people there. There were about 10 to about a dozen people in the theater, he said.
« I did notice that they dropped the prices on the concession stand stuff considerably, » Braley said. They wore masks going in and up until they started eating their popcorn. He didn’t see many people going in, but everyone he did see wore masks.
Prior to the movie, he said, Cinemark showed footage of what they’re doing to keep the theater clean. He saw sanitizing stations there, and the line was configured to promote social distancing. As for being back in the cinema, he was happy.
« I loved it, » Braley said. He enjoys going to the movies, and even with streaming making movie chains nervous, he thinks movie theaters will survive. He’d like to see the restored version of « The Empire Strikes Back. »
« I’m glad, too. There’s some movies that just need to be seen on a bigger screen, » Braley said about big-screen movies returning. « I hope it doesn’t ever go away completely. »
(On the Net: Cinemark.com.)

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