In the old days, people would be circling the parking lot for a spot at AMC Theatres in Plainville on a rainy Sunday.
The fact that the large lot was nearly half-full by early afternoon was a welcome feat this Sunday, as movie theater ticket sales creep back up in the 18th month of this pandemic.
“It feels like things are sort of getting back to normal,” employee David Sempere said as he scanned a patron’s ticket on their phone. “The only thing that’s different is that some people are wearing masks.”
Some people – not everyone – since the theater does not require patrons to wear facial coverings at the current time. That could change, depending on ever-evolving covid-19 business regulations put out by the State of Connecticut and individual municipalities; in this case, the Town of Plainville.
Staff are required to be masked at all times, per AMC’s regulations.
“Most people walk in wearing masks,” Sempere said. “If they don’t have one they see us wearing them and will run back to their car to get theirs, even though they don’t have to.”
Mother and son Janet and Ben Schneider showed up mask-free Sunday. It wasn’t their first time back to the theater since it reopened so they knew the deal.
“I was here yesterday seeing Black Widow,” Ben said, admitting to being just “a little nervous” about the ongoing threat of covid-19.
“I’m not nervous at all,” Lisa said. “I’ve been back a couple times. I think they’re doing everything right.”
The Schneiders, and everyone, it seemed, had come to see Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
The film snagged the second-highest opening of a pandemic-era movie at an estimated $71.4 million in domestic box office sales. “Black Widow” took first place. Shang-Chi is also the highest-earning of any film released over Labor Day weekend.
“We’re excited,” Kevin and Lisa Jacobs said as they walked into the theater, wearing masks.
It was a special occasion, being their first time back since before the pandemic.
Ernest Blyther came with a big group of family and friends.
“Everyone is masked up, everything is good,” he said as they strolled into the theater.
Families and large groups now have the ability to “rent” a theater for their own use. This has become especially popular, according to Sempere.
New Britain resident Melissa Roche sat in the lobby waiting for her friends to arrive. They had tickets to see “Respect.”
“I come here all the time with my friends,” she said. “I was not happy when they were closed. I’m always watching movies.”
Picture Show, a movie theater in Berlin, was equally busy all day.
Glastonbury resident Dave Lui brought his teenage son Derek and his group of friends to see Marvel’s latest.
“We’re very comfortable coming here,” Lui said. “We’re all vaccinated and we wear our masks.”
“It’s good to have the vaccine because of the Delta variant,” one of the teens pointed out.
For partners Robert Reader and Chris Bonatsakis, of Newington, it was their third time back to the movies. They too, were headed in to see Shang-Chi.
“A Marvel movie is much better in a theatre, just because of all the special effects,” Reader said.
“We had covid already,” Bonatsakis added. “But we are taking extra precautions because both our professions require us to be around people.”
Mike Lozinski, one of the managers at the Picture Show, is happy to see ticket sales increasing again.
“It started picking up around July,” Lozinski said. “We were doing 300 people a day; now we’re doing about a-thousand.”
That’s still lower than pre-pandemic sales, when a Marvel movie like “Avengers: End Game” drew 3000 people to an opening at Picture Show.
The theater has an honesty policy when it comes to face masks.
“If you’re vaccinated you don’t have to wear one, but we’re not checking,” Lozinski explained. “About 75 percent of people still wear it. A lot of times they’ll take it off once they’re in the movie. We find a lot of discarded masks.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.