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What does the future hold for Twin Cities movie theaters?

Pandemic closures could be permanent for some; others to reopen.

UPTOWN THEATER 2021.jpg
Closed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the marquee at the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis advertises “Take Out Movies Only” on May 26, 2021. (Neal Lambert / Pioneer Press)
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ST. PAUL — For at least six movie theaters in the Twin Cities, there appears to be no happy Hollywood ending to the story of COVID-19.

The four-screen Edina Cinema is closing, its owners have announced. The Alamo Drafthouse Woodbury — a lavish nine-screen dinner-and-movie complex — has closed.

They join a list of theaters across the Twin Cities that includes the Plaza Theater in Maplewood, Uptown Theatre, the five-screen St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis and the Mann Hopkins Cinema 6 in Hopkins, Minn.

Many owners of the theaters did not return phone and email messages regarding the status of their facilities. It isn’t known if the closures are permanent, or which theaters might reopen under new management.

But the outlook could be bleak for theaters that have been shuttered since the state shutdown in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s especially true for those that — so far — have no plans to reopen, in spite of the easing of COVID-related restrictions. Gov. Tim Walz announced three weeks ago that movie theaters may operate at 50% capacity.

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The family-owned Mann Theatres closed the Hopkins location last year. But business at eight other locations is strong — and getting stronger, according to co-owner Michael Mann.

“It’s been a tough road,” he said Tuesday, May 25.

At the worst moments in the past year — when theaters had to sell popcorn outdoors in the middle of winter — he and other owners were at the curbside, thanking their customers.

“We have a great relationship with our community,” Mann said.

In the past year, Hollywood has not released its biggest movies to theaters. But this weekend will be a watershed, he said, with two potential blockbusters — “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Cruella.”

It looks like some surviving theaters are emerging from a long, dark tunnel.

“We are very pleased. We are very optimistic,” Mann said.

Two other closed theaters were slated to reopen when the restrictions were lifted Friday, May 28. CMX Cinemas Market in Mall of America has been purchased by B&B Theatres, a national theater chain. Under the name Bloomington 13, the theater will reopen with two new movies. And the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis will resume showing movies Friday with “A Quiet Place Part II.”

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COVID was even worse for second-run movie theaters, said Charley Swanson, spokesman for the Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood. The church is the only one in the state that owns a movie theater — the two-screen ­Plaza, which is closed.

“This is hopefully temporary,” Swanson said.

The Plaza has exclusive rights to run movies after they have left first-run theaters, but before the movies are given to streaming services. But that period of time is shrinking — and some movies have even been released online and in theaters at the same time.

“I don’t know what the future holds for this business model,” Swanson said.

The Twin Cities movie theater closings are part of the industry trauma that continues nationwide. Hundreds of theaters have been closed by industry giants including AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Cinemark Theatres.

Global box office revenue in 2020 plummeted more than 70% to $12 billion, according to the website Statistica.

The local closings are in addition to the demise of the New Vision Theatres Oakdale 20. That theater complex closed permanently in June 2020, and the site is being redeveloped as a furniture outlet.

Related Topics: MOVIESCORONAVIRUS
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