CASA GRANDE — Jan Miles and Marcia Bridgewater were ready to munch on popcorn and sip soda Friday afternoon as they headed toward an afternoon showing of “Unhinged.”

The two friends and self-proclaimed movie buffs would go to the movies at least once a week before COVID-19 prompted the closure of theaters.

Friday, as Harkins Theatres reopened doors to the public once again, Miles and Bridgewater were among afternoon movie-goers eager to return to the theaters.

“We’re seeing ‘Unhinged’ but honestly, we’re so excited to be going to the movies again that we’d see anything,” Bridgewater said.

Mark and Karen Lundgren were taking their teen daughter and a friend to see the new sci-fi thriller “The New Mutants” and said they felt safe knowing social distancing and other safety measures would be implemented inside the theater.

For the past few months, the family has been streaming movies at home.

“Even before COVID, I didn’t go to the movies too often,” Mark said. “But with the theater reopening today, we’re all excited to be going again.”

Harkins Theatres, Arizona’s largest chain, announced on Tuesday that it would open its facilities on Friday, including in Casa Grande. In emails sent to fans and in an online announcement, the company said with reopening, it would have “rigorous and safety cleaning protocols in place.”

The theaters have been closed since March 20 as part of the state’s COVID-19 safety measures.

Among the updated safety protocols for movie attendees are socially distanced seating, facial covering requirements for all employees and patrons, reduced touch points and safety shields throughout the theater. Loyalty cup refills are now dispensed in disposable cups, the company website said.

For Krisenna and Levi Hancock of Casa Grande, the reopening of the movie theaters meant they could finally resume their regular Friday afternoon movie dates.

“Before COVID, we had a routine. We’d go to the movies once a week, usually on Fridays,” Krisenna said. “It feels so good to be going back to that routine again.”


Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at