MovieScoop Kent Plaza Cinemas adjusts business strategy to endure COVID-19 pandemic


Eman Abu-Khalas

The Kent Plaza Theaters is a local movie theater located at 140 Cherry St. in Kent.

Aaron Cousin, Reporter

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed businesses down in 2020, over 70 films pushed their release dates.

This caused MovieScoop Kent Plaza Cinemas, a movie theater in University Plaza in Kent, to adapt how the business operated.

Shannon Heisel, general manager of Kent Plaza Cinemas, said the theater had to get creative with business strategies to work around the difficulties of the pandemic. For example, the theater showed old movies since many new movies were being pushed back.

“We focused a lot on the classic films. “Jaws,” “Back to the Future,” stuff like that,” Heisel said.

Heisel said offering theater rentals also helped maintain regular business.

“We were doing smaller group rentals, so people could bring their family in, still feel comfortable to get out of the house (and) have something to do,” Heisel said. “I think that really helped bring in some new customers who might not have been even aware that we’re here. I think that’s truly what helped us make it through the worst of it was getting some new regulars.”

Kent Plaza Cinemas prioritized the cleanliness of the theater and the health of its customers, even if it meant fewer showing times for movies.

“We have a cleaning staff that comes in in the mornings. They were spending more time on the theaters themselves. That kind of took a lot more time away from us being able to play more shows, unfortunately,” Heisel said. “But it definitely gave people a lot more peace of mind.”

Ben Lambert, an associate worker at Kent Plaza Cinemas, said there were special protocols when he started working at the theater in fall 2021.

“When I first started, we had more like plexiglass shields up. We were very thorough about cleaning, and we still are very thorough about cleaning, but we were really on top of it,” Lambert said.

Heisel said the owners planned for the business to potentially get shut down when the news began to report more on COVID-19.

“We had a lot of prep over the weekend because nobody was coming in. Everyone was panicking,” Heisel said.

It turns out the business prepared wisely, as Heisel said that by the following Monday, the theater was closed.

“We were really lucky. We were only closed for three months,” Heisel said.

Kent Plaza Cinemas, being located near the university, generates many customers that are Kent State students. Heisel said the theater was able to help Kent State students and organizations feel normal after the worst parts of the pandemic.

“We did a lot of Halloween films, family friendly and scary stuff, and that really helped,” Heisel said. “When Kent State did resume, the kids were like, ‘What do we do?’ We did some showings for campus organizations and stuff like that.”

With the business getting back on track, Heisel said things are going well for the theater.

“We have a bunch of discount days. I think that’s really helped with the people who are financially affected by the pandemic,” Heisel said.

Even though it took time for Kent Plaza Cinemas to figure out how to adjust to the pandemic, customers are coming in like they used to. Heisel said she believes one reason for that is the staff.

“The staff loves coming to work,” Heisel said. “They have a good time, and that translates to customers coming in seeing that the employees are having a good time and they want to come back.”

Aaron Cousin is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].