ACX Cinema 12+ aims to open in west Omaha this winter


Zach Gilbert

The owners of Aksarben Cinema intend to open a new theater in west Omaha this winter. Photo courtesy of Main Street Theaters Inc.

Main Street Theaters Inc., the Nebraska-based family owned and operated theatrical exhibition company that runs Omaha’s Aksarben Cinema, is planning on opening a new theater and restaurant in west Omaha this winter.

ACX Cinema 12+ is located near 204th and Q Streets, and it will have 12 theaters along with an outdoor screening area. In addition, it will be attached to the restaurant Backlot Pizza + Kitchen, an extension of Backlot Taphouse, which is a hot spot in Aksarben Village known for its Nebraska brewed beer and Detroit style pizza.

While most screens at ACX Cinema 12+ will be 50 feet wide or larger, the theater houses one screen that is nearly 75 feet wide, larger than anything seen at Aksarben Cinema, setting it apart from its sister theater.

Currently, theater seating is being installed and menus for concessions are being formulated and finalized ahead of the theater’s launch. Despite intentions to open before the end of the year, a set date has not been announced.

Along with a variety of other companies, theater chains have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. Most theaters shut down in mid-to-late March after initial “stay-at-home” orders were issued, and, as a result, film studios have continually shuffled their release schedules and delayed hot titles like “Black Widow,” “No Time to Die,” and “Dune,” as the pandemic raged on, with no end in sight.

Though Warner Bros. attempted to release Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” this past September, box office returns were lackluster, resulting in a domestic cume that only now totals nearly $50 million, almost two months later. Many theater chains – including AMC, Regal, and Cinemark – re-opened for “Tenet’s” debut, hoping this would be the start of a triumphant return to moviegoing. Instead, Tenet’s underperformance resulted in the mass exodus of other movies originally set for 2020, leaving theaters without much content to provide to crowds.

In recent weeks, new releases haven’t offered much hope either. Robert De Niro’s family comedy “The War with Grandpa” and Liam Neeson’s action thriller “Honest Thief” only opened with $3.6 million and $3.7 million, respectively, while last week’s horror drama “The Empty Man” flopped with $1.3 million.

Nevertheless, despite these paltry box office returns, co-CEO and Main Street Theaters President Bill Barstow indicated that he was hopeful for the future of the movie industry in a recent interview with the Omaha World Herald.

“We just have to slowly build into it as the rest of the country comes online,” Bartow said. “[But] we need some bigger movies coming.”

Looking ahead, Universal Pictures is offering a steady stream of content, from the western “Let Him Go” starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane and set to be released on Nov. 6, to the horror comedy “Freaky,” starring Vince Vaughn, which will open on Nov. 13. Furthermore, the studio intends to release the animated sequel “The Croods: A New Age” on Nov. 25, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Disney currently has Ryan Reynolds’ sci-fi action comedy “Free Guy” set for Dec. 11 and the Kenneth Branagh-directed murder mystery “Death on the Nile” dated for Dec. 18. Finally, Warner Bros. has centered “Wonder Woman 1984” as the crown jewel of the holiday season, but rumors suggest this film may move soon too.

Regardless, when ACX Cinema 12+ does open, Barstow intends for it to adhere to the safety guidelines enforced at other cinemas owned by Main Street Theaters. When these theaters reopened in late August, they remained at reduced capacity, and showtimes were limited. Concessions menus were decreased as well, and staff implemented additional cleaning procedures. Social distancing was regulated and face masks were mandatory.

“We’ve had really good attendance to start,” Bartow said.

It remains to be seen when and if theatrical moviegoing can rebound before the end of 2020, but ACX Cinema 12+ will hopefully be waiting when the time comes.