The North Riverside Luxury 6 theaters at North Riverside Park Mall. (Photo courtesy of Classic Cinemas)

The North Riverside Luxury 6, the movie theaters operated by Classic Cinemas at the North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 Cermak Road, will blow the dust off their projectors and reopen their doors to the film-watching public on Thursday, April 15.

Crippled by mitigations imposed by the state to limit the spread of COVID-19, the mall’s six movie screens have been dark for all but two weeks since mid-March 2020. But, when the doors reopen next month, said Classic Cinemas CEO Chris Johnson, they’re staying open.

“I have no plans of re-closing,” said Johnson, who shut down the theaters July 9 for good after a two-week trial. With Hollywood delaying new film releases because movie houses in New York and Los Angeles were closed, Johnson determined second-run movies were not the solution.

“It’s been super tough,” Johnson said. “In many ways it was the worst possible of all situations, but the good news is that we’re going to be able to make it to the other side.”

New York’s movie theaters were given the go ahead to reopen last week and Los Angeles theaters are slated to reopen March 19. 

When Johnson closed the chain’s theaters last July, he made the decision to furlough the company’s employees. He maintained contact with them throughout the past eight months, updating them on possible reopening dates (some of which fell through) and soliciting feedback from them.

The good news from the staffing perspective, said Johnson, is that all of the company’s theater managers are returning along with many employees.

“We had enthusiastic support from our employees, and that was great because we were worried about that,” Johnson said. “They’ve been way too nice, kind and understanding. We’re ready to go.”

Although Hollywood is still tweaking its release schedule and at least one blockbuster that was supposed to open this spring in theaters got sold to Netflix, Johnson said there are other draws that will be coming out in April and May, including “Mortal Kombat” and “Black Widow.” Another movie that had been delayed until September, “Quiet Place 2,” has been moved back to May, and “Top Gun” is slated to open July 2.

“It’s enough to get going,” Johnson said. 

The theaters will be operating under some COVID-19 mitigations, including a requirement that patrons wear face coverings. The theaters will limit capacity based on state guidelines and parties will be socially distanced from one another.

Johnson said he’s hopeful that the governor will ease the capacity limits to allow for more than 50 patrons in spaces that can accommodate them safely.

I absolutely am ready,” Johnson said. “The outpouring of support has been fantastic and I share the belief that people will get out of the house and return to the theaters.”

Johnson also gave kudos to the management of the North Riverside Park Mall, his landlord, for their willingness to work with Classic Cinemas to ensure their long-term presence at the shopping center.

“They were the first landlord to reach out, be accommodating and work with us,” said Johnson. “They are a class act and really did what’s right and couldn’t have been more supportive. That’s a partnership. They got it, understood it and cultivated that relationship.”

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