By Dillon Thomas

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Dozens of movie theaters reopened on Friday after nearly a year of being completely closed for business amid COVID-19 restrictions. Cinemark, AMC, Metrolux and more opened their doors to moviegoers with social distancing and other health guidelines enforced.

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Unlike the restaurant industry, movie theaters were largely unable to adapt their business models to accommodate outdoor service. However, with Governor Jared Polis lifting his own restrictions to allow some indoor gatherings, Cinemark Theaters was one of the many chains to reopen.

“It has been really difficult in the theatrical industry,” said Chanda Brashears, Senior Vice President of Investor and Public Relations for Cinemark.

Brashears told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas Cinemark experienced many of the same losses as other businesses amid the pandemic, likely beyond an 80% drop in sales.

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“We have been significantly impacted,” Brashears said.

Cinemark is just one of several movie companies that adjusted their services to better accommodate customers in a safe manner during the pandemic. Hand sanitation stations are located throughout the facility. The theaters are sanitized between each showing and different groups of people are not allowed to sit closely to each other.

“We instituted a seat buffering technology which automatically blocks seats adjacent to your party when booking your ticket to assure physical distancing throughout the theater,” Brashears said. “We are excited to safely welcome moviegoers back to that immersive cinematic experience once again.”

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“We are ready to get out,” said Tammy Thompson, the first ticketholder to enter the Cinemark Bistro XD Theater in Fort Collins.

Thompson, and her mother Sharon, were waiting at the doors of the theater with anticipation of returning to a favorite pastime.

“It is Friday fun day. I take mom, there’s very limited things we can do. And, one of the things she likes to do is come to the movies,” Thompson said.

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Thompson said her mother has spent much of the past year in her household, and movies were limited to viewing from the couch. However, with the return to theaters now here, and health protocols enforced, Thompson said she was thrilled to get her mother back to the theater.

“I feel pretty comfortable bringing her out,” Thompson said. “Just to live your life and have some entertainment outside of the four walls of your house.”

Cinemark has changed some of their daily operations as well. Free refills have now been adjusted. Refills of popcorn and drinks won’t be done out of reusable containers, but rather with individual disposable ones that can be exchanged after each refill.

And, for those still wanting to take extra precautions, Brashears said Cinemark is offering private theater rentals for as little as $100 per movie.

“To get back in to the theater and have that immersive cinematic experience, there truly is nothing else like it,” Brashears said.

Dillon Thomas