The big screen is back – or at least certainly trying to. Though big movie releases (like "Raya and the Last Dragon," "Chaos Walking" and "Godzilla vs. Kong," all on the near horizon) are becoming a more regular occurance, considering there's still an airborne pandemic still going around, many movie lovers casual and crazed understandably still don't feel comfortable heading back into an enclosed space for multiple hours with dubiously masked strangers.
That being said, there's still a way to return to the big screen safely in a bubble and to support these theaters as things vaccinate their way to normal: renting your own theater for a private screening.
To still show movies and stay in business while making customers feel as comfortable as possible during these strange times, several local movie theaters have introduced new private theater rental deals, allowing families and film fans to bring themselves, as well as those they feel safe with, back to the big screen. Because let's all agree: Streaming movies at home sucks and has gotten real old. Sure, it's convenient (and yes, the safest option for the time being), but even with a great home entertainment set-up, it's hard not to feel like you're missing part of the overwhelming experience – and even the most focused and rigid cinephiles can find themselves distracted by everything at their fingertips at home.
So which theaters are offering these private theaters – and which one offers the right deal for your viewing wants? Here's a guide to local movie theaters and the details on their current rental programs. And here's to moving back (safely) to the movies! Now ... action!
Various locations throughout the area
Days available: Select Marcus Theatres locations are open Fridays through Sundays as well as Tuesdays.
Price: The cost ranges depending on the day and film, ranging from $99 (plus tax) on Tuesdays and for older releases up to around $180 for the newest releases during weekend showings. To check the price of your particular movie, time and day of choice at your location, visit Marcus Theatres' website.
Rental time: Your theater will be available 30 minutes before the movie's show time, then yours for the duration of the film.
Film selection: Movies currently showing at the Marcus Theatres location of your choice are available for Private Cinema rentals – which currently include the likes of "Tom and Jerry," "The Little Things," "Raya and the Last Dragon" and "Chaos Walking" along with assorted selections new and old. To show something from a Blu-ray, DVD or streaming service, Marcus must obtain rights, costing an extra $350 fee.
Max. capacity: A limit of 20 guests
Food options: Outside drink is not allowed during your rental, but the concession stand – featuring a full menu of popcorn, candy, fountain drinks, appetizers and other snacks – is available along with pizza, sandwiches, burgers and more from Zaffiro's and other in-theater dining experiences depending on your Marcus Theatres location.
More information: marcustheatres.com
2500 N. Mayfair Rd. inside Mayfair Mall
Days available: AMC Mayfair is open Fridays through Sundays.
Price: Rentals range from $99 to $199.
Rental time: Your theater will be available 15 minutes before the movie's show time, then yours for the duration of the film.
Film selection: The AMC Mayfair offers a selection of new releases (currently including "Raya and the Last Dragon," "Chaos Walking," "Boogie," "Tom & Jerry" and more) as well as a genre-spanning selection of classic favorites new and old – including "Back to the Future," "Magic Mike," "Caddyshack," "Scream," "The Prince of Egypt," "Field of Dreams," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and more.
Max. capacity: A limit of 20 guests
Food options: Outside drink is not allowed during your rental, but the concession stand – featuring a full menu of popcorn, candy, fountain drinks, appetizers, bar food and more – is open.
More information: amctheatres.com/rentals
320 Market St.
Days available: The Silverspot Cinema is currently open Thursday-Monday.
Price: Thursdays and Mondays cost $125.07 or $104.05 for matinee sessions (before 4:30 p.m.). Fridays cost $156.60 or $104.05 for matinee bookings. Saturdays cost $156.60 all day long, and Sunday reservations cost $125.07 no matter the time of day.
Rental time: Three hours
Film selection: Guests are allowed access to all of their personal streaming accounts to play selections – new or old; movies, television shows or sporting events – on the big screen. New releases currently showing at the theater are also available for private screenings; however, all guests must also buy a ticket if you choose to watch one of those selections. (This includes releases that are available both in the theater and on streaming – such as "Nomadland," "The Little Things" and "Tom & Jerry.")
Max. capacity: A limit of 20 guests
Food options: Though not included in the price of the rental, the full menu of food, beverages and cocktails from the Silverspot's S Bar is available to enjoy for your rental. A server will take the guests' orders before your film begins so the food and drink arrives in time for the feature. The menu is available here.
More information: silverspot.net/private
2589 N. Downer Ave.
The Landmark Downer Theater is not currently offering private screenings beyond its typical event rates, but you can still support this local cinema by buying gift cards at the Downer's website. Also, for those who feel comfortable going to the movies right now, the Downer is currently open and showing movies (currently awards contenders "Nomadland" and "Minari"). For showtimes, as well as information on the locale's COVID-19 health and safety protocols, visit the Downer's website.
While the Times and Rosebud are still closed, the Avalon is currently open – but the theater does not currently offer private theater rentals beyond their usual event rates. However, you can still support these local cinemas by buying gift cards at any of their websites – and for those who feel comfortable going to the movies right now, the Avalon is currently showing new releases like "Chaos Walking" and "Tom and Jerry." For showtimes, as well as information on the locale's COVID-19 health and safety protocols, visit their website.
The Oriental Theatre is still closed due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and construction updating the cinema – but you can still support Milwaukee Film at this time AND watching great entertainment by checking out its Sofa Cinema virtual screening platform as well as its Black History Month and Women's History Month mini-festivals.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.