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 Emagine Macomb movie theater has been shut down since March 15 due to COVID-19. When it does open, a date which is yet to be determined, there will be fewer show times.

Emagine Macomb movie theater has been shut down since March 15 due to COVID-19. When it does open, a date which is yet to be determined, there will be fewer show times.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

Local movie theater chain lays out reopening plan

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 7, 2020


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — No date has been set for when movie theaters in southeast Michigan may open, but that hasn’t stopped one local chain from having a plan in place.

Emagine Macomb theater, located at the northeast corner of 23 Mile and Hayes roads in Macomb Township, has been shut down since March 15.

On March 16, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order temporarily closing movie theaters.

On June 5, an executive order addressed the plan to reopen more regions and economic sectors under the MI Safe Start Plan. Phase 5 allowed the reopening of salons, movie theaters, and gyms, subject to safety protocols and procedures designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“The governor has talked about entering Phase 5, which we would be a part of,” Emagine Entertainment Chairman Paul Glantz said June 29. “The plan was to be in that phase by the Fourth of July, but apparently the increase in cases has altered that plan.”   

He added that a main challenge to Emagine theaters in Michigan is the fact that Emagine’s theaters in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota have all opened. Aside from Macomb Township, Emagine operates metro Detroit theaters in Birmingham, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, and Farmington Hills.  

“We’ve heard that bars pose a bigger risk for transmission than movie theaters,” Glantz said.

In May, Emagine developed an 18-page reopening protocol document that has been followed in other states where theaters are open.

It includes a return-to-work action plan, workplace protocols to follow, social distancing protocols, and more.

“These protocols were not developed without substantial thought and consistent with CDC guidelines,” Glantz said.

From a workforce perspective, he said managers were kept on the payroll for two months during the pandemic. Recently, additional employees were laid off.  

The week of June 28, he said all employees but general managers were furloughed.

Emagine Macomb General Manager John Selleke said he has been working during the theater’s closure.

“For the most part, I’ve been by myself at the theater,” he said. “It’s been top-to-bottom cleaning and disinfecting of everything from the popcorn poppers to the grills and pizza oven.”

Every seat in the theater has been cleaned, both on the surface and underneath.

“We’ve made sure things like light switches and door handles and pop machines are wiped down clean, from the inside and out,” Selleke said.

With all the adjustments that have been made during the pandemic, Glantz said it’s been a combination of sad and frustrating.

“We’re not able to serve our guests, which is our purpose, and Hollywood hasn’t been releasing films that folks would like to see, so reopening would be ideal, but not unless we can secure some feature films,” he said.

Once the theater opens, there will be more times between shows to allow for extra cleaning, which means fewer show times throughout the day.

From a business standpoint, Glantz said Emagine has lost millions of dollars.

“We’ve been blessed that our banks have been very gracious,” he said. “They provided some relief in deferments and waivers of required principal payments.”

Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance through Emagine’s website or app, which will allow for contactless selection of seats and purchase of tickets prior to entering the theater.

Signs are posted on the front door of the theater asking guests to refrain from entering if they have experienced any symptoms of COVID-19. Emagine is also requesting that all guests respect social distancing guidelines and encourage the wearing of masks while in lobbies and restrooms.

All Emagine employees will be required to wear masks and have to complete a daily health screening prior to entering the workplace.

Lobbies will have directional signage and graphics to remind guests to remain six feet apart at the box office, concession stand, self-serve soda stations, restrooms, and queueing lines. Hand sanitizer stations will be available at numerous locations throughout the building. In addition to re-arranging furniture to respect social distancing in the lobbies, Emagine has also adjusted the auditorium seating to allow for restricted capacities that are mindful of social distancing guidelines.

As guests enter the auditoriums to find their seats, there will be an assigned staircase to go up and another staircase designated for those exiting the auditorium. One-way aisle traffic will be encouraged at all times.

“Rows are at a minimum 7 feet apart and two seats will be blocked off between groups or individuals,” Selleke said.

Employees will also clean and disinfect high-traffic areas more frequently, and exit doors will be propped open to reduce common touchpoints.

For food service at the theater, in addition to normal concessions, delivery will be available from the concession stand to a patron seated in an auditorium, to avoid patrons waiting in line. Food and beverage products can be ordered on the Emagine app.