Wonderland Cinema, Niles Main Street to host movie in the park

NILES — On Friday, Wonderland Cinema will serve what Lisa Croteau called “a little slice of normal.”

Croteau, director of marketing and administration for Niles Main Street, worked with Wonderland Cinema’s co-owner Scott Moore to put together a movie in Riverfront Park. Starting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, the theater located at 402 Front St., will open its concession window for walk-up service. At 9:30 p.m. the movie will begin to play for viewers in the park. The team effort will bring the Disney/Pixar film, “The Incredibles,” a movie about a superhero family, to the screen as attendees enjoy the open air of the park.

“It’s about community,” Moore said. “We still want to be involved and part of the community.”

The movie will play to an audience sitting in the park. The event is free, and attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs to make themselves at comfortable. The walk-up concession window will be open for attendees to purchase favorite movie theater snacks from popcorn to hot dogs.

However, the theater building itself will be closed to the public. Portable restrooms in the park will be provided.

There will be markings in the grass to help guide attendees through safe social distancing. There will be circles marked where families and groups may sit together, and they will be spaced 6 feet from other guests.

“We’ll encourage people to stay in their pod,” Croteau said. “We have learned the lessons to be able to adapt our behavior to make it less dangerous.”

Masks will be encouraged, but not required.

“We don’t have another one planned,” Moore said. “We are just dipping our toe in the water.”

As of publishing, Friday’s movie in the park will be a one-time event for the summer.

“We hope this will be a precursor to [Wonderland Cinema] being able to reopen,” Croteau said.

Movie theaters have been closed since March 16, under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 mandates. Without a clear set date for reopening, theater owners like Moore are trying to weigh options on how they can best welcome the public back when the time comes.

Moore hopes to be able to reopen the theater soon, but is cautious about expectations.

“We won’t be doing ‘movies in the park’ as a program because of how things are open,” Croteau said. “We would rather have people go to the movies.”

As Moore awaits Whitmer’s directions for movie theaters, he said the theater has had to weigh different options for reopening.

During its time closed, he said the theater has installed new curtains.

With movies like Disney’s “Mulan” being delayed in release, the effect on movie theaters is impacted both from a local level and from the movie industry itself.