UPDATED: AMC reopening most of 600 theaters in time for ‘Mulan’ debut

Staff photo

AMC Theaters will reopen 450 of its 600 U.S. theaters on July 15, “Variety” reported Thursday, and most of its other 150 theaters will be fully operational in time for the July 24 debut of Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake as well as the Warner Bros. tentpole “Tenet” on July 31.

AMC, which owns the Fiesta Square 16, did not list which theaters would re-open on July 16 or the ones that would open later, but on its website, it said look forward for announcements soon.

Malco Theaters, which operates cinemas in Fayetteville, Springdale, and Rogers, has begun phased reopenings in Mississippi and Kentucky, but has yet to announce plans for its theaters in Northwest Arkansas, although the company released last week that it plans to have most of its theaters operating by mid to late July.

UPDATE (June 22, 12 p.m.)
Malco Theaters in Fayetteville (Razorback) and Rogers (Towne) will reopen Friday, June 26.

The 112 Drive-In in Fayetteville is up and running Thursdays through Sundays with twilight double features. This weekend a Steven Spielberg double feature of “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” is on tap.

Over last weekend, Warner Bros. announced it would move the debut for director Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” to July 31. The studio also moved the debut of “Wonder Woman 1984” from mid August to Oct. 2 to give both of the projected blockbusters room the breath. No sense in letting the two movies cannibalize each other’s box office. It also gives WB room to move “Tenet” into August or September if not enough theaters are open for it to be profitable at the end of July.

Disney still plans to open “Mulan” on July 24. The film is expected to also do well in China, whose theaters have slowly been re-opening for the last month.

AMC is implementing new safety measures for cleaning and disinfecting its theaters as well as requiring social distancing among its patrons and staff, but it will not require customers to wear masks unless state and local laws and regulations mandate the public to wear masks.

UPDATE (June 19, 2 p.m.)
After experiencing a social media backlash, AMC Theaters has reversed course on its mask policy for customers when the company reopens its theaters next month.

AMC CEO Adam Aron told the Associated Press Friday that it will require its customers to wear masks in its theaters.

“We think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests,” Aron said to the AP. “It is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks.”

In the early stages of reopening, AMC plans to only sell 30 percent of available tickets for each showtime to help ensure social distancing. However, employees will wear masks and will undergo temperature checks before starting a shift.

Cinemark does not operate theaters in Northwest Arkansas, but it did release a PR video from its CEO Mark Zoradi on the types of measures its theaters will take to create a safe environment for movie goers. The video might give us a clue for what to expect on those terms from Malco and AMC when they do re-open in NWA.

Cinemark CEO Message

Drive-In Double Feature

Perhaps the key testament to a director’s greatness is how well his films hold up over time. If that is the case, Steven Spielberg certainly deserves his ranking among America’s very best.

Films like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” have proven to be timeless and continue to thrill audiences whether they have seen the movie a half a dozen times or if they are being newly introduced to the pictures.

“Jaws” and “Jurassic Park are two more Spielberg’s films that falls into the timeless classic category.

What’s interesting is that both films grab you by the lapels and don’t let you go for their duration, but Spielberg builds the suspense in “Jaws” by waiting as long as he can to actually show you his great white predator, while the dinosaurs are in full display throughout “Jurassic Park” and only get scarier as the picture develops. Spielberg is by no means a one-trick pony when it comes to thrilling an audience

Both are showing as a double feature today through Sunday at the 112 Drive In. On Friday “Jaws” plays at 9 p.m. with “Jurassic Park’ to follow. On Saturday and Sunday, Jurassic Park opens the double feature at 9 p.m. with “Jaws” to follow.

Jaws (1975)

The lore behind the shooting of “Jaws” is almost as well known as the now classic tale of the 20-foot great white shark that plagues the waters surrounding the northeastern island of Amity during the beaches busiest time, the Fourth of July weekend.

Spielberg’s original idea for the 1975 film that paved the way for all summer blockbusters to follow wasn’t a minimalist approach. His plan was for the mechanical shark to be front and center, the star of the show.

However, the fake shark’s mechanics didn’t agree with salt water, and most of “Bruce’s” (the shark’s nickname) scenes had to be scrapped because of malfunctions. Spielberg instead used music and and a first-person view from the shark’s vantage point to build suspense and horror more effectively than he could have done with hapless shark.

John Williams’ masterful score gave the film more bite than any mechanical shark could provide, and the views from the shark’s perspective were a masterstroke of Spielberg’s inventiveness, creating a supremely suspenseful film that works on almost all levels some 45 years later.

In fact, the scenes with the shark — which was state of the art at the time — are some of the least effective in the film. At the film’s climax when the shark chomps down on shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw), it’s a gruesome scene, but less so by how artificial the beast actually looks out of the water.

Though “Jaws” is a blockbuster, it’s also a rough-edged film of the 1970s with gritty and nuanced performances by Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper, and Roy Scheider as Chief Brody. As much as Spielberg and Williams’ technique and artistry make “Jaws” a classic, Scheider, Dreyfuss, and Shaw give the film viscera, muscle, sinew, and heart with their performances. Their reactions to each other and the shark make you believe what you’re seeing on the screen could actually happen. That’s tough duty.

“Jaws” was one of Spielberg’s first films, but I still classify it among his best along with “Schindler’s List” and “Amistad.” I don’t have a personal top 10 or 25 list of favorite movies, but if I did “Jaws” would be near the top.

Jurassic Park (1993)

I don’t regard “Jurassic Park” quite as highly as I do “Jaws,” but it’s still a fantastic thrill-ride of a movie that deserves all the love and credit it receives.

Despite two and half decades passing and four sequels being made, Spielberg’s original adventure to the island of Isla Nublar is just as scary, thrilling, and fun as the day it opened back in 1993.

The computer-generated imagery by Industrial Light and Magic still holds up today and remains more effective than most of the CGI we see in films today.

Sir Richard Attenborough plays philanthropist John Hammond who heads a team of researchers who figure out how to clone dinosaurs from ancient DNA, harvested from amber deposits. Hammond is building a theme park around the re-born creatures to monetize his research and discovery.

Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum play a trio of doctors who are invited by Hammond to marvel at his work along with his grandchildren Lex and Tim before the park opens to the public. Of course the tour goes awry when a tropical storm hits the island and some of the more dangerous dinos escape and begin to track and attack the visitors.

The film is a grand spectacle of filmmaking with Spielberg perfectly using CGI to amplify his cautionary of tale of science run amok as told through eyes of both scientists and children.

In “Jaws” Spielberg withheld the shark early in the film to create thrills, but he showed exactly how tense he could make a movie by showing everything with “Jurassic Park.” The CGI effects remain among the best ever put to film.

The scene where the velociraptors stalk the two children in the theme park’s kitchen is an unnervingly wonderful piece of filmmaking that’s as strong a scene as has ever been shot in a monster film.

Like “Jaws” it has too many great scenes to rehash, but “Jurassic Park” stands not only as the best fantasy/horror film of the 1990s, but also one of the best movies of the decade.