SURVIVING FOR A SEQUEL: Broken Heating, Basement Flood, and Pandemic No Match for Downtown Cinema
budget theater reopens, plans to remain at the ‘heart of the city’
Micon Cinemas, a local chain of movie theaters in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, has reopened its downtown Eau Claire budget location more than a year after closing its doors for a multitude of reasons – pandemic included.
Micon Downtown Budget Cinema, 315 S. Barstow St., officially opened Friday, Sept. 10, with showings of the recent R-rated superhero flick “The Suicide Squad.” Tickets at the location are $5 ($4 on Tuesdays) and the theater is scheduled to operate Fridays through Sundays and Tuesdays until further notice.
“We’ve been waiting for a selection of relatively new movies to become available to us,” said Connie Olson, who co-owns the theater with her husband, Mike. “Most of the time, when you’re a budget house, you’re able to run the movies at least a couple of weeks before they go streaming or onto DVD, but Hollywood hasn’t been doing that lately. We still hope there is a crowd out there who (is) willing to come see it at the budget theater and see it on the big screen.”
We feel strongly that the downtown cinema is the heart of the city in a lot of locations. It’s something people enjoy, and we’d hate to take that experience away from people.
The road to reopening has been a difficult one for the Olsons. Beginning on New Year’s Eve 2019, the theater closed for two months after its boiler gave out. After reopening briefly, the cinema was forced to close again in March 2020 because of the pandemic. The Downtown Cinema reopened in June 2020, but closed soon after because of a lack of available new films.
Ultimately, the Olsons decided to reopen the theater in September after a 14-month dark period. A final setback came in August when the opening was once again delayed because the building’s basement flooded. However, reopening the location was always the goal for the longtime businesses owners.
The Olsons met each other at a similar budget-style movie theater, so keeping their family-owned location remained not just a business goal, but also a personal one.
“Reopening was always our intention, but there was discussion about letting it go,” Olson said. “We feel strongly that the downtown cinema is the heart of the city in a lot of locations. It’s something people enjoy, and we’d hate to take that experience away from people. We’d rebuilt it up from a location people really weren’t coming, so we’re hoping to get that again and not let it disappear.”
With both the main Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls Micon Cinemas seeing a slow return of viewers during the coronavirus pandemic, Olson said as long as movies continue to roll out from studios, and people are willing to come see them, the three Micon Cinemas locations will remain in the Chippewa Valley for years to come.
“The people are starting to come back as long as Hollywood gives us movies for them to come see,” Olson said. “Hollywood is still a question mark for us, and we’re still not sure how everything is going to shake out with the movie studios, streaming, and other factors.”
Check out what’s showing at the two-screen Micon Downtown Budget Cinema and at Micon’s other locations at miconcinemas.com.