The AMC Evanston 12 opened Wednesday, replacing the Century 12 Evanston/CinéArts 6, which went dark during the first days of the pandemic.
Cinemark, the former operator, ended its long-term lease of the space at 1715 Maple Ave. in 2021. AMC took over the site in February 2022.
The original theater had 18 screens. The new theater has 12. The expansive ticket booth has been moved from the former lobby into the large area that used to be reserved for concessions. A permanent concession stand will soon be built as well as a small bar in the room.
“It looks very similar to what it was,” said Tom McCarey.
Evanston residents Gerry and Emm Hubbarth came for the first movie, Black Adam. They bought tickets with assigned seats, but the theater only had a few other customers.
“I don’t think it matters,” said Gerry. “We can sit anywhere.” They were not worried about COVID-19 and neither wore a mask.
“We’ve been double vaxed. Triple vaxxed,” said Gerry. His only worry was parking. “I’m not sure if the new theater covers our parking.”
Dallas Yanez, a massage therapist, arrived on his skateboard to buy tickets. He used to go to the Century at least once a week, he said.
“When they closed this place, it disrupted everything because of COVID,” he said. “Now it’s back. I feel like I just got my life back.”
Several former employees returned to give the new place a look.
Gary Jacobson, who retired as manager and general manager of the old theater, came to see a movie with another Cinemark worker. He figured the old theater would be immune from the financial setbacks caused by the pandemic because it had so many screens. Nearby merchants, particularly restaurant owners, depended on business from the theater, he said.
Anthony Smith, who worked at the Century for about 20 years, was interested to see what details were changed.
“I know this theater like the back of my hand,” he said, pointing out the wallpaper he had installed. Smith was a manager of the old theater and was surprised when it closed permanently. “It was like a punch in the gut,” he said. But he still works for Cinemark in Melrose Park.
The theater is in a prime location, Smith said. “People love it because it is part of the neighborhood.”