More Charlotte area movie theaters will now be reopening on Friday after being shuttered for most of the last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Charlotte-based Stone Theatres will begin reopening its theaters Friday, company vice president Dale Coleman confirmed to the Observer Thursday. That includes Indian Land, S.C., south of Charlotte. Its theater in Indian Trail is set to open April 30.
“It’s been a long year,” he said. “But we’ve made it to the point we’re excited to reopen our theaters and welcome our guests back.”
Regal theaters also will begin reopening Friday in North Carolina, first with Charlotte’s Stonecrest at Piper Glen 4DX, IMAX & RPX, the Observer previously reported.
The news comes as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19. On Wednesday, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said he expects to remove the majority of pandemic-related restrictions by June. Last month, Cooper also eased COVID-19 restrictions, including allowing movie theaters to operate at 50% capacity, up from 30%.
Stone Theatres has five theaters and 60 screens in the Carolinas. Only the small chain’s Myrtle Beach location has been open since November.
“We can see month by month consumer confidence continues to get better and better, (Myrtle Beach) gives us confidence to open our other locations,” Coleman said.
’Anxiously awaiting’ return to theaters
Theaters opening Friday are: Wilmington, Fayetteville and Indian Land, S.C., which briefly reopened in August but was closed less than a month later because of low attendance and lack of new movie releases. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster began allowing movie theaters to reopen Aug. 3.
Coleman said the company still has more people to hire for its Indian Trail venue ahead of its reopening next week. The theaters will open with two new action films “Mortal Kombat,” starring Joe Taslim and Jessica McNamee, and action anime “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.”
Each theater will have about 30 employees at reopening, and Coleman expects to hire more in the summer with increased demand.
“We’ve been anxiously awaiting things to get better because of vaccines and our studio partners to release consistent meaningful films our guest will be excited to see,” Coleman said. “We think we’re going to continue to build momentum but not initially at pre-pandemic levels. But the most important thing is to keep our locations open.”
Stone Theatre moviegoers can expect to see safety protocols in place, like spacing between groups to maintain social distancing, face coverings required and frequent disinfecting of surfaces.
Regal theaters reopening too
The Knoxville, Tennessee-based chain Regal had originally planned to reopen the Charlotte theater April 16 but delayed it by a week after Warner Bros. pushed back the release of “Mortal Kombat.”
Regal, which has seven Charlotte locations, including Gastonia and Rock Hill. The other theaters will reopen in phases:
▪ May 7: Regal Birkdale in Huntersville and Regal Starlight in Charlotte, as well as Regal North Hills and Regal Brier Creek in Raleigh and Regal Crossroads & IMAX in Cary.
▪ May 14: Regal Phillips Place in Charlotte and Regal Franklin Square in Gastonia, Regal Manchester in Rock Hill, and Regal Beaver Creek in Raleigh.
▪ May 21: Regal Cinebarre Arboretum in Charlotte.
Some Charlotte Regal venues briefly reopened Oct. 2 after COVID-19 restrictions allowed theaters to reopen with capacity limits. Less than a week later, the chain closed all of its theaters nationwide. Parent company Cineworld cited closures in its major markets like New York and limited new film releases from studios as reasons why.
Some theaters still closed
Another Charlotte theater remains closed temporarily.
Texas-based Studio Movie Grill, with one Charlotte location in the University area, remains shuttered. Charlotte is one of two in the 20-chain that is listed as closed online.
The Dallas, Texas-based chain emerged from bankruptcy Wednesday, after filing for Chapter 11 in October citing the pandemic.
The historic Gem Theater in Kannapolis also is closed but not because of the pandemic. It is undergoing $1.1 million in renovations and is expected to reopen in time for the summer movie season.
At least one theater did not reopen. AMC Theatres told the Observer in August, as South Carolina movie theaters planned to reopen, that its Rock Hill location would not reopen based on a business decision, not necessary the pandemic.
Opening later this year
Charlotte Film Society expects to open its three-screen cinema art house on Raleigh Street in NoDa in the fall.
The Independent Picture House is 5,500-square-feet of a 32,000-square-foot industrial building under renovation.
The city has been without an art house theater since May, when Regal announced it would not reopen Regal Manor Twin in Myers Park.