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Marcus Theatres adds vaccine-only showings at West Acres Cinema

Some movie screenings at Marcus Theatres will begin requiring guests to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The theater will still offer showings for unvaccinated guests at different times.

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Fargo's West Acres Cinema, seen here Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, will begin offering vaccine-only showings Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — Marcus Theatres’s West Acres Cinema will begin offering movie showings for vaccinated viewers only beginning Friday, Jan. 21.

The vaccine-only screenings will be offered for two titles each day. The shows will be specifically marked on both the Marcus Theatres website and app. Kicking off the vaccine-only showings will be "Scream" at 4:50 p.m. and 7:50 p.m. on Friday and "Redeeming Love" at 4:10 p.m. and 7:20 p.m. on Friday. Unvaccinated guests can still attend other screenings.

In order to be admitted to the showings, viewers will need to provide a proof of vaccination as well as a photo identification. Customers are considered fully vaccinated if they are two weeks removed from either the second Pfizer or Moderna shot or first Johnson and Johnson shot.

The vaccine requirement will apply to all movie-goers, regardless of age, meaning any children in attendance will also need to be vaccinated. There is not an option to provide a negative test result.

Clint Wisialowski, Marcus Theatres’s senior vice president of sales and business development, said the vaccine-only showings were tested at a small group of theaters before the company made the decision to roll it out to more locations.

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Marcus Theatres began testing the program in November and it found success quickly. “When we first put it in, it was important to us that customers understood it was a choice,” Wisialowski said. “Once customers understood that and they looked at the showtimes and schedules and the way we ran the business, I think both sides loved the program.”

Theaters have had to make several changes to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and this is another one of those changes, Wisialowski added. “It’s not news to anyone that it’s been a challenging couple of years,” he said. “This is another iteration of that. It was a response to guests who haven’t been to us in a long time. It was the ability to provide a choice that we thought was important and we’ve been asked for by guests in certain locations.”

The vaccine-only showings will be kept to movies which have multiple showtimes on multiple screens, Wisialowski explained. The lineup of vaccine-only shows will change weekly as new movies come out and prior releases see less traffic.

Showtimes for vaccine-required movies and those without the requirement will be close together. It’s a move which Wisialowski said was designed to give customers options. “It’s just another choice that the guests can or cannot make. I am not going to determine that for anybody,” he said. “I’m simply saying that for the movie theater, we want everyone to feel like you have a choice.”

The decision to add the vaccine-only showings was made based on viewer feedback, though Wisialowski said customers also “spoke with their wallets” by foregoing movies. “We also found that when we looked at our loyalty program, and we’ve had a long-standing loyalty program, that there are a number of guests that hadn’t been to us in two years,” he remarked.

Only 26 of Marcus Theatres’s 85 locations have added the vaccine-only showings because some theaters do not have the capacity to separate vaccinated and unvaccinated viewers. In Fargo, Wisialowski said he expected that the vaccine-only showings would be kept to the West Acres Cinema, though if demand is high it could also roll out at the Century Cinema. “At this point, I’m going to say what we’ll probably find is we’re going to be able to satisfy the guests at West Acres,” he remarked.

To view vaccine-only showtimes for the West Acres Cinema, visit marcustheatres.com/theatre-locations/west-acres-cinema-fargo .

Readers can reach InForum reporter Thomas Evanella at tevanella@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella

Thomas Evanella is a reporter for The Forum. He's worked for The Forum for over two years, primarily reporting on business news. Reach him at tevanella@forumcomm.com or by calling 701-353-8363. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella.
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