CINCINNATI — Julianne Reisenfeld can't deny the COVID-19 pandemic and health restrictions that followed delivered a real hit to the bottom line of the local movie theater group she manages.
"Obviously closing when the pandemic first came about was what we had to do," said Reisenfeld, vice president of operations for the Theater Management Corporation.
She said even when businesses started to slowly reopen last summer, the Kenwood, Esquire and Mariemont theaters faced other challenges.
"The biggest problem was that we didn't have big films from the studios to even show," Reisenfeld said.
But like any good summer blockbuster catastrophe film, the theater group found a way to survive those dark times.
The Esquire and Mariemont theaters showed smaller, independent films, whose releases were not as dramatically impacted as the big Hollywood productions.
The Theater Management Group also began renting out individual screening rooms for $99 so people could have their own private screenings of movies.
"We did a lot of rentals for families and groups to come in on their own and watch a movie in a theater of their own," Reisenfeld said.
And the group found other ways to engage audiences.
Each theater started selling "mega-bags" of movie-grade popcorn for takeout, along with curbside pickup of other popular concession items.
"That's actually been a really big success," Reisenfeld said. "People like to take our best popcorn in town home with them. So, yeah, we will continue doing the big bag of popcorn."
The group even added new concessions as more people -- and those Hollywood blockbusters -- began returning to theaters this summer.
Those items include doughnut holes for summertime children's movie screenings.
And for both adults and kids, each theater has added soft-serve ice cream.
"You can actually do a frozen cocktail with them," Reisenfeld said.
When asked if she is worried about services such as HBO Max streaming first-release movies once only available to see in theaters, Reisenfeld said she isn't too worried.
She believes after a year of social distancing, people are ready to safely gather together once again in front of the big screen.
"There's enough people that really do want to see movies on the big screen that...of course we're happy about that," she said.
For showtimes and more information, visit www.esquiretheatre.com.