NCG Cinemas awaits state action on theaters

OWOSSO — Movie theaters were conspicuously absent from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest executive order allowing various businesses to reopen amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving companies such as NCG Cinemas unsure when they will be allowed to resume operations.

“We’re doing all we can to get open (in Michigan),” NCG Cinemas Executive Vice President Ryan Jankovich said Friday. “We’ve had theaters open since June 4 in other states.”

This past week, Whitmer announced some of the last remaining types of businesses that have been closed — gyms and fitness centers, for instance — could reopen. Theaters, though, were not mentioned in the pandemic-related order.

According to the Michigan COVID-19 summary website, the state has 109,000 confirmed cases and 6,569 deaths as of Friday. About 80,600 people are considered recovered.

“We are not about casting a negative light toward elected officials,” Jankovich said. “We just want to reopen. We’d like to have the opportunity to open. Whenever that is, we will be ready.”

Jankovich said NCG, which is headquartered in Owosso, operates theaters in nine states: Michigan, New York, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Illinois and Florida.

Theaters have been allowed to operate in 46 of 50 states overall, but three of the four U.S. states still closed contain NCG theaters: Michigan, New York and North Carolina. The fourth state is New Mexico, but NCG doesn’t operate there.

“We belong to Cinema Safe, a collaboration of 330 theaters — 3,300 screens — across the industry,” Jankovich said. The collaboration has created various “best practices” and protocols on such things as cleanliness.

“Our focus now, as it has been for 35 years, is focusing on an exceptional and clean customer experience,” he said.

He said in the states where NCG and other cinemas have been allowed to reopen, things have “gone exceptionally well.”

“Certainly, some customers are not ready yet,” he said. “We will welcome them back when they are ready. Whenever they are ready, we will be ready.”

Where theaters have been open, Jankovich said, NCG has been showing older films at discounted prices because new releases had not been taking place.

That’s changed recently, however, as movies such as “Unhinged” and “Tenet” have been released to strong interest among moviegoers.

“Some movies came out 20 years or more ago. Two weeks ago we began showing new releases,” he said. “‘Unhinged’ was kind of the first. ‘Tenet’ they were hoping for $20 million and it did that in the first weekend.”

Jankovich said NCG knows customers in each location will make their own decisions about when they feel safe, as will employees who have been out of work.

“We support our employees as best we can,” he said. “We will bring back as many as we can.

“The big thing is we are eager to get back open,” he added. “We want this to be a safe place to go … a two-hour vacation where people can get away from the business of life.”

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