After $2.5M Renovation, Golden Star Theaters in Austintown Ready to Open

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – The region’s movie theaters will reopen this month and among them will be the new Golden Star Theaters multiplex in Austintown.

The 10-screen multiplex, which has undergone a $2.5 million renovation, will show its first movie on Aug. 28.

Theaters throughout the region have been closed since March because of the coronavirus pandemic. They were permitted to reopen June 10, but many have waited in order to put safety measures in place.

The Austintown Golden Star multiplex was previously run by Regal Cinemas, a national chain. Golden Star took over operations after Regal’s lease expired on Dec. 31 and began renovations shortly thereafter.

Opening weekend films will include new releases “Unhinged,” a road rage thriller starring Russell Crowe, and the Marvel Comics action flick “The New Mutants.” Older or classic films will occupy the remaining screens.

The Austintown theater has undergone a head to toe makeover that includes the installation of plush reclining seats in all rooms, and new flooring, signage, screens, digital projectors and surround-sound systems. 

The expansive lobby will have a section with high-top tables and chairs for preshow relaxation. The concession stand will feature an expanded menu and, within a few months, beer, wine and cocktails.

The theater will employ about 40 full- and part-time workers.

Two screens will feature RealD, a 3D film technology. 

The multiplex’s 10 screening rooms range in capacity from 40 to 140. That’s a decrease of about 50% per room, because the new reclining seats take up much more room.

Frank Moses, president and owner of Golden Star, said measures will be in place to ensure the safety of guests and staff.

Patrons will be seated at least six feet apart if not in the same party. Tickets will be sold on-site, but they can also be purchased online in advance or at self-service kiosks in the lobby, making the process totally hands-free.

Plexiglass dividers will be mounted at all cashiers and movie start times will be staggered to keep crowding to a minimum.

Guests must wear a mask in common areas, and will be encouraged to continue wearing it while seated. Hand sanitizing stations will be available and employees will routinely clean touch points.

“We are also circulating more fresh air through our HVAC system,” Moses said.

How long it will take for folks to feel safe going back to the movies is a question that remains to be answered, but Moses is confident in the future.

“Once COVID is under control, I think you will see the market return to normal,” he said. “We will have a better understanding soon, once we can see consumer habits.”

While almost all of the summer blockbusters on the schedule were delayed until theaters could reopen, many smaller films were released to streaming platforms.

Will movie fans be willing to break that habit? Moses says yes.

“The film companies made a lot of money from the box office and also from DVDs,” he said. “The DVD is almost gone now and I don’t think the streaming platforms will force much change in the theater market. Nothing will ever surpass the big screen experience, the excitement.”

Offering alcohol is new to Youngstown-area theaters, and it’s meant to further enhance the theater as an entertainment option.

“It’s an amenity,” Moses said. “They usually only buy one drink, maybe two.”

The Austintown theater has six taps for draft beer, plus prepackaged brews, and will seek to offer locally made products.

Moses said he is also open to booking independent films for his smaller screening rooms.

One familiar sight that the Austintown multiplex will not have is a marquee that shows what’s playing.

That’s because the purpose of a marquee is now fulfilled by Golden Star’s website and app.

“With the number of [movies] we’re bringing in, the visual of driving up and seeing the marquee… is not as big as the online,” Moses said. “It’s better for us [to use that space] to brand the theater. We want people to recognize who we are and have a sense of comfort. Plus, once you tap into our app, you can drill down and see the trailers, the start times, the amenities. It’s a better way to engage people.”

Moses pointed out that the outdoor neon lights and theater logo will still be lit every night. Banks of lighted movie posters have also been mounted outside, facing the parking lot.

Golden Star Theaters started in 1994 when the company took over Westgate Cinemas in New Castle, Pa. It has since added Shenango Valley Cinema in Hermitage, Pa., as well as multiplexes in suburban Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md.

“We are local people and this market fits us,” Moses said of his newest acquisition in Austintown. “We support the community and they will see that.”

The Austintown Golden Star multiplex isn’t the only theater that will start to greet patrons this month.

On Aug 21, Cinemark’s Tinseltown multiplex in Boardman will reopen, as will Regal’s Boulevard Centre in Niles and Cinema South in Boardman. Salem Twin Cinema in Salem has not yet announced when it will reopen. Westgate Cinemas in New Castle, Pa., and Shenango Valley Cinema in Hermitage, Pa., will also reopen Aug. 21.

Encore Cinema in Niles and Movies 10 in Boardman also do not yet have reopening dates. “We are second-run theaters and we feed off the first-run theaters,” said Brian DeCiancio, who owns both theaters, in explaining the uncertainty.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.