Local movie theater reopens Fri. with ‘Godzilla vs. King Kong’

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, April 28, 2021


The screens at Dillon’s Big Sky Cinema will soon flicker back to life.

“Friday, we’re getting opened back up—at least partially, anyway,” said Stan Smith, the longtime manager of the longtime local movie theater that will start showing movies again, on April 30, after being shuttered since mid-winter.

“We always knew we’d reopen. We just weren’t sure of how, or when,” said Smith, who will begin showing films on a part-time basis this weekend.

“We’ll be opening Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Memorial Day, and then go seven days a week.” said Smith, who gets to come out of the re-starting gate with two films that have proven pandemic era hits since their releases last month.

This weekend, Big Sky Cinema will present the local debut of the cinematic heavyweight action title fight “Godzilla vs. King Kong,” and the Disney animated feature “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

“We’ve got some stuff coming that will be new product people haven’t seen before. We’re hoping by July all theaters will be fully open, which

will be a big plus, because that means the release schedule will get filled out and stabilized,” said Smith of the hopeful resolution of what has been

a sort of distribution shell game by Hollywood in 2020 and 2021.

“They keep releasing movies, and then yanking them back,” said Smith, who has seen the release date of numerous promising films, including the next James Bond movie, “No Time to Die,” delayed numerous times.

“It’s just been crazy,” said Smith, who anticipates soon getting expected hits such as Cruella and the next installment in the Fast & Furious franchise.

The local theater will continue to observe practices it began during the pandemic to limit patrons potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“We’re just going to keep it roped off the same way we’ve had it, with 50 percent, just like we’d been doing,” said Smith of the half-occupancy limit the theater implemented and will continue to observe.

“We’ll still do the same protocol with the masking and social distancing and all that fun stuff,” added Smith of other safety guidelines still in place at Big Sky Cinema until further notice.

Like all movie theaters in the state, Big Sky Cinema got forced to shut down about a year ago following an order from then-Gov. Steve Bullock that compelled theaters to suspend the showing of movies for fear that the crowds they attracted would become COVID hotspots.

“Then we started selling curbside popcorn three weeks later. We did that until we started running old movies at the end of May,” recalled Smith of the strategies he employed to keep his employees employed and the theater operating.

“We started out with ‘Goonies,’ which packed the house,” said Smith of the first of a series of family-oriented films he replayed from the 1980s and 1990s while waiting for Hollywood to start releasing new ones.

“We ran old movies for quite awhile until new movies started to pop up. Then we played old movies at the same time we played

new ones to fill the screens,” said Smith who kept implementing that strategy until new releases dried up and the supply of old films got exhausted.

“All that was available was old movies. And we had already played so many old movies, nobody was coming in to see them. And then the winter heat bill kicked in, and it was, ‘Oh, geez.’ We got the January bill and the February bill was coming up, and realized, we’re not even going to make enough to pay the power bill, much less pay the employees or any of the other bills,” remembered Smith of the series of setbacks that led to the second temporary closing of Big Sky Cinema, on Feb. 7, just as the worst weather of winter was enveloping the area.

“So, we decided to just kick back and sorta hibernate.”

That hibernation will officially end Friday.