Lights, camera, and a return to movie-showing action will occur Friday night at the Milaca Theatre when owners Bill and Jessica Wright reopen at 25% capacity.
The couple was surprised when Gov. Tim Walz made the announcement last Friday afternoon the state was moving to Phase 3 of its COVID-19 reopening plan.
Entertainment venues such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, and museums opened Wednesday, June 10, using the 25% capacity figure and a 250 patron maximum. That means the Milaca Theatre can welcome 96 moviegoers.
“Luckily, we’ve been doing our takeout concessions, so it’s not like we aren’t stocked in that department,” Jessie said. “The minute we got the word, I was on the phone Friday and Saturday with the person who books our movies, because Monday is the day she deals with all of the studios.”
The Milaca Theatre will show “I Still Believe,” a 2020 American Christian musical romantic drama film directed by the Erwin Brothers and starring KJ Apa, Britt Robertson, Shania Twain, Melissa Roxburgh and Gary Sinise.
The inspirational movie is based on the life of American contemporary Christian music singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp and his first wife, Melissa Lynn Henning-Camp, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly before they married.
“A lot of independent theaters are booking this movie,” Jessie said. “It’s the perfect one to come back with, and it’s one Bill and I had talked about as independent theatre owners. We all knew that this was the one we were going to come back with. We didn’t think we were going to be closed this long.”
This Friday, doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. showing of “I Still Believe,” Jessie said. On Saturday, there will be a 2 p.m. and a 7 p.m. showing, with doors opening at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and a Sunday showing at 7 p.m. she said.
“Obviously, we are still not out of the woods,” Jessie said, referring to the COVID-19 related hit the Milaca Theatre took when the screen went dark on March 16.
“Hopefully, things will go well with the movies that we are able to bring in, and we’ll draw customers,” she said. “We still have a lot of work to do to stay open.”
The two biggest months of the movie-showing year are June and July, she added. “Since there aren’t any new movies coming out, June won’t be what it has been the last three years that we’ve owned the theatre,” Jessie said. “Right now, there are movies scheduled release in July, but the studios are still not 100% and they could pull those. Our fingers are crossed that we can still book Mulan.”
The Wrights are working with other Milaca businesses on movie promotions.
“We are trying to get our free summer movie series going again for the month of July,” she said. “Every Friday at 10 a.m. starting July 10 is my goal,” Jessie said. “I’ve got a lot in the works right now, and we are doing everything we can.”
Jessie said East Central Energy will be attending Friday’s showing of “I Still Believe” and giving away 100 large buckets of popcorn and future movie passes.
The Milaca Theatre will use its Facebook page to post last-minute updates regarding movie times and reopening plans. “For the time being, we are only going to be open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” Jessie said. “Right now, there are no new movies out, and Monday and Tuesday were our slower days.”
Popcorn buckets can no longer be refilled due to guidelines so the jumbo buckets will not have one free refill and will be $6 whether it is for in the movie or to go, Jessie said. The Milaca Theatre is discontinuing its $5 jumbo buckets of popcorn to go.
Bill, Jessica, and the Milaca Theatre crew stress that patrons need to practice social distancing guidelines when they return. There will be Centers for Disease Control rules and regulations posted pertaining to social distancing and sanitizing and the Wrights will put that information on Facebook, Jessie said Monday.
“With 396 seats, 96 people should be able to adequately space themselves,” she added.