If you have ever gone to the movies in Fargo-Moorhead, Duluth, Rochester, or throughout Minnesota, then you probably know who Greg Marcus is. He’s the one who comes on screen with a short bit before the main feature film is shown at a Marcus Theatre. Those bits, often featuring other family members, are folksy and amusing.
“Those bits allow me to welcome people to the movies and thank them for coming,” Marcus said. “We try to have a little fun, and let people know who we are.”
Marcus is the president and CEO of the Marcus Corporation, which owns 91 theaters across the country. His grandfather started the business 85 years ago, with one theater in Wisconsin. Off the screen, Marcus is every bit as friendly, energetic and down to earth as he is on the screen.
“I love movies. It’s two hours in a theater where nobody bothers you, and you get engrossed into a story,” Marcus said. “You have some popcorn and then you talk about what you saw.”
Marcus loves all kinds of movies. Among his favorites are “North by Northwest” and “Animal House.”
“Movies make you laugh, make you cry, and can be socially important,” Marcus said. “You just go for the ride.”
However, that ride came to a sudden halt. Marcus had to close his theaters in March due to COVID-19. They remained closed for more than five months.
“It’s been unbelievably hard,” Marcus said. “We’ve never been in a position like this. It’s been hard not being able to go to a movie.”
The problem for Marcus is that while the theaters were closed, he had many ongoing expenses. They included salaries, and rent for the theater buildings.
“It’s been a very significant financial hit. We had to borrow money,” Marcus said. “We have so many excellent employees, and we had to let some of them go. You hate to do that. They’re family.”
Fortunately, Marcus Theatres are now back in business. After talking to medical experts, they have put in several precautions that make going to the movies much safer. Those precautions include limiting and spreading out the available seats in the theaters, employees and customers wearing masks, and frequently cleaning the theaters. They’re also emphasizing that customers can order their tickets and concessions online. Their food and drinks will then be ready for them to be quickly picked up when they arrive at the theaters.
“We’ve done our best to design a low contact experience,“ Marcus said. “Just enjoy the movie.”
For Marcus, reopening the theaters has been a long wait.
“Being closed for so long wears on you,” Marcus said. “I am so happy to welcome back a lot of our dedicated workers. We’re thrilled to be open again, to give people that two hour break from their lives. A time when they can forget about the real world and enjoy themselves.”