Coming Attraction: Salem Twin Cinema Ready to Reopen

SALEM, Ohio – After being shut down for more than a year because of the pandemic, Salem Twin Cinema will flicker back to life on June 25.

It’s another sign of the resurgence of the entertainment industry in the region, and the theater’s management team expects patrons will be eager to return.

“A lot of people are tired of being at home,” said Alex Grist, general manager of the two-screen theater. “It’s a safe place to go when you leave the house and rejoin society.”

For now, the theater will be open Thursday through Sunday. It will expand to seven days as demand dictates.

For opening weekend, Salem Twin will show the action film “Fast & Furious 9” – “F9” for short – on both screens. The movie is the latest in the blockbuster franchise starring Vin Diesel. The cast also includes Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, John Cena, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell and Charlize Theron.

Salem Twin will return to showing a different film on each screen after the initial week or soon after, Grist said.

The release schedule for the rest of the summer boasts a series of films that should keep ticket sales strong at Salem and elsewhere.

“There are a lot of new movies coming out in the next six weeks,” Grist said, explaining that Hollywood has a backlog. “Every week there will be something with blockbuster potential.”

Looking ahead, “The Boss Baby: Family Business” will be released July 2, “Black Widow,” July 9; “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” July 16; “Jungle Cruise,” July 30; and “The Suicide Squad,” Aug. 6. Go to SalemTwinCinema.com for listings and times.

“We’ll get movies that people want to see,” Grist said, “including lots of family-friendly films.”

Located in a shopping plaza at 2350 E. State St., Salem Twin Cinema is a convenience for those who live in the area, said Grist, who pointed out that the nearest theaters outside of Salem are 20 miles away. But it’s also a part of the city’s fabric.

“It’s a community place,” Grist said. “We see the same customers almost every week.”

Jock Buta, owner of Salem Twin Cinema, and Alex Grist, manager, stand in front of the movie theater Tuesday, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in advance of the theater’s June 25 reopening.

The theater is owned by Jock Buta and his family, who bought it in 2014 and gave it a half-million dollar renovation that included the installation of reclining seats and also some “rumble” seats that shake to add to the experience of explosions or earthquakes.

Digital projection systems were added to both of the 140-seat screening rooms. Grist said both projectors were recently overhauled to get them ready for the restart. Some seats were also reupholstered during the downtime.

In addition to Grist, who is full-time, the theater has at least five part-time employees.

Buta is the vice president of Butech Bliss, which employs 280 people at its sites in Salem. The company designs, builds and services machinery for the metals industry.

When the previous owners closed the theater, Buta stepped up to keep it going.

“I am a lifelong patron of this cinema,” said Buta, who grew up in Salem. “When it closed because the former owners weren’t ready [to make the technological improvements required to keep up with the industry], I felt love for it. … It’s great for the community and something appreciated by the whole town.”

To prepare for the reopening, Buta is having the property deep cleaned. Making customers and staff safe is his primary concern. The theater, he said, will follow CDC guidelines to protect against COVID-19. Patrons will not be required to wear facemasks, but employees will for the foreseeable future.

“A big concern is that everyone feels comfortable,” Buta said. “A lot of our patrons are families, and children aren’t eligible for vaccines yet.”

Salem Twin Cinema is not the only theater in the area that is about to reopen.

On Friday, Movies 8 in Boardman – a second-run discount multiplex – will return after being closed for more than a year. On the screens will be “Mortal Kombat,” “Tom and Jerry,” “The Unholy,” “Wrath of Man,” “Raya the Last Dragon,” “Nobody” and “Godzilla vs. Kong.”

Brian DiCiancio is the owner of both Movies 8 and its sister theater, the second-run Encore Cinema in Niles. DiCiancio does not yet have an opening date for Encore Cinema, but said it will be in the very near future.

The major-chain multiplexes in the area, including Regal theaters Boulevard 10 in Niles and Cinema South in Boardman, and Cinemark’s Tinseltown multiplex in Boardman, reopened earlier this spring

Golden Star Theaters’ newly-renovated multiplex in Austintown opened last August. 

Frank Moses, president of the New Castle, Pa., theater chain, said attendance has been growing and he expects numbers to get back to pre-pandemic levels this summer.

“[Movie distributors] are starting to provide a lot of bigger products,” Moses said.

Currently playing at Austintown is “Peter Rabbit 2,”  “Cruella,” “Queen Bees,” “In the Heights,” “Spirit Untamed,” “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” “Wrath of Man,” “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” and “Censor.”

Like Salem Twin Cinema’s Grist, Moses is also looking forward to “F9.”

“A lot of ‘tentpole’ films are filling the pipeline,” he said. “And we’re starting to see a nice turnout of people coming back.”

The Austintown multiplex recently extended its hours and now has films starting as early as 10:30 a.m. “Kids are out of school now, which is helpful to restore demand,” he said. “We’re looking to be in high gear by late summer.”

Another big change will come to the Austintown multiplex as early as this weekend. The theater will become one of the few in the area to sell alcohol – beer and frozen drinks – making it part of the vanguard of a theater-industry trend.

“We hope to have [alcohol sales] rolled out by Friday,” Moses said, but he could not be certain if the product and dispensers will be ready in time.

“If not this weekend, then by [June 25] for sure,” he said.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.