Theaters nationwide celebrate National Cinema Day

Cinemark University Mall is one of over 3,000 theaters participating in NATO’s ‘National Cinema Day.’ (Megan Brugger)

Movie theaters across the nation celebrated National Cinema Day on Sept. 3 with $3 movie tickets and Utah County was no exception.

Theaters could choose whether to celebrate National Cinema Day but were strongly encouraged to do so by The Cinema Foundation, a donor-supported, charitable foundation of the National Association for Theater Owners (NATO), who sparked this nationwide celebration.

The association announced in a press release that this one-day event would be held at over 3,000 locations and on more than 30,000 screens with the hope of bringing communities together after years of pandemic living.

This summer, many theaters reached nearly pre-pandemic attendance levels, with attendees spending more on premium tickets and concessions. The release of “Thor: Love and Thunder” was a major contributor and had AMC’s highest global attendance of the year with 5.9 million moviegoers.

“The box office results, week after week after week this summer, have demonstrated what we at AMC have believed to be true all along: consumers want to experience their movies through the unrivaled experience of a movie theater, with its big screens, big sound and comfortable big seats,” Adam Aron, CEO of AMC, said in a press release.

The association expressed their gratitude for the return to theaters as part of their reasoning for the National Cinema Day celebration and is optimistic about continual attendance increase trends.

“After this summer’s record-breaking return to cinemas, we wanted to do something to celebrate moviegoing,” Cinema Foundation president Jackie Brenneman said in the NATO press release. “We’re doing it by offering a ‘thank you’ to the moviegoers that made this summer happen, and by offering an extra enticement to those that haven’t made it back yet.”

Cinemark 16 in Provo, Cinemark University Mall in Orem and Megaplex Theatres at Geneva in Vineyard all participated in National Cinema Day with success, especially after recent attendance decreases following the COVID-19 pandemic and the traditional Labor Day weekend lull.

“Our attendance has definitely picked up today. When we checked our pre-sold tickets this morning we had already sold over 1,600 tickets. Usually, at this point in the season with school having just started, we would only see 500 people daily,” said Cinemark 16 assistant manager Bryanna Hammond.

Moviegoers buy tickets outside Cinemark 16. This theater attracted more attendees on Sept. 3 than ever at this point in the season. (Megan Brugger)

In addition to the significant ticket price decrease, NATO offered sneak peeks of upcoming titles from Disney, Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros. and more to participating theaters, shown only on Sept. 3.

“Right now we are much busier than we were during the pandemic. Cinemark, like many other businesses, was one of the ones to shut down at the height of COVID to keep their employees and guests safe. However, I think our attendance increase is due to people going a little stir-crazy during the pandemic and because movies haven’t been this cheap in decades,” Hammond said.

Hammond continued to describe how with the slowing down of COVID and the increased amount of movies coming out, people are excited to get out and go to the movies.

Local theaters followed NATO’s push not only for business purposes but for fun.

“Celebrating today is in part Megaplex’s decision, but it is also part of the bigger push by NATO. Anytime we do this type of ticket price reduction we need the studio’s backing of course, but we sure jumped at the opportunity to follow NATO. It’s been really great for us,” General Manager of Megaplex at Geneva Trevor Robb said.

Movie attendees wait in the concessions line at the Megaplex Theater at Geneva. This theater saw an increase of ticket sales as part of NATO’s push and incentive for moviegoers. (Megan Brugger)

While the decision was made to encourage an increase in attendance, theaters such as Megaplex were stunned by just how many people came and participated.

“Today has been really busy. I was surprised by the high attendance numbers, especially because we do our ‘$5 Tuesday’ every week. I didn’t think there was that much of a difference between the $3 today and $5 on Tuesdays, but apparently there is, so here we are,” Robb said.

This push attracted guests like BYU graduate Jakob Perez, who wouldn’t otherwise go to theaters for his entertainment.

“I came to Megaplex today to see Bullet Train, because it was only $3. The $3 was my big incentive for actually being here,” Perez said.

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