East Grand Forks movie theater gets a fresh look, set to open June 19

Discounted ticket prices, family films to be prevalent during the first month.

Jacob Newton, an employee at River City 15 in East Grand Forks, said he is ready to get back to work. The Theater opens on June 19. (Adam Kurtz/Grand Forks Herald)

River Cinema 15 in East Grand Forks is moving forward and showing films beginning on Friday, June 19.

The movie theater, shuttered for the past three months due to state-mandated coronavirus mitigation efforts, was allowed to open at 25% capacity on June 10, under the state’s Stay Safe Plan. Co-owner Penny Stai needed to wait until the 19th to get digital movie files from her booking agent, which usually takes about 10 days. Stai said queries about reopening her business have been flooding in, and she is glad to get back to work.

“We constantly have people calling and messaging and asking when we're opening,” Stai told the Herald. “I think people are really excited to get out of the house.”

Moviegoers can expect to see a fresh look at the theater. The building has been cleaned, the auditoriums have been repainted, and the seats, carpets and flooring have been cleaned. The cosmetic changes became a necessary way to keep staff on the clock, and according to Stai, all staff will be returning to work.

“We're trying to keep as many people employed as possible, so we just put them to work,” Stai said.


In order to do that, ownership of the theater took out a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, to pay staff and cover other expenses. The program makes federal dollars available to small businesses during the pandemic.

Those going out to see a movie can expect plastic shields, like those that have popped up at businesses across the region, to be in place at tills and concessions stands. People will be able to sit in every other row at the theater, and guests sitting in one row will be asked to keep an appropriate space between other patrons. Other safeguards put in place include sanitizing wipes, for guests to wipe down their seating area, and the floors are marked with signs for distancing.

The mitigation efforts extend to staff as well, who are required to wear masks, and will have their temperatures taken at the beginning of their shifts. Cleaning is a high priority, according to Stai.

“We have a full-time person on cleaning; they're going to be wiping down everything,” Stai said.

Concessions will be available, including beer, but Roxy’s Bar and Grill, located on the triplex side of Riverwalk Mall, won’t open unless there is a demand for it. River Cinema 15 is split into two parts, the triplex, and the theater’s 12 other screens, on opposite sides of a mall hallway.

As for movies, people can expect slightly older ones, as film studios won’t be releasing new movies until mid-July. Until then, studios have put together packages of a variety of films, including ones for children.

“We’re excited; there’s a nice variety,” Stai said.

Hours at River Cinema 15 will, at first, be reduced, but will expand depending on demand. Something customers can look forward to: Tickets will be $5 for shows in the day and evening.


On the North Dakota side of the river, the AMC Classic 10 in Grand Forks could be open next month, which roughly coincides with film studios’ release dates for new movies. According to a June 9 Washington Post report, AMC Theaters, the largest theater operator in the world, said it expects to have 98% of its theaters opened in mid-July, provided the coronavirus doesn’t reassert itself and thwart those plans. The report states AMC theaters will operate at reduced capacity, with stepped-up cleaning schedules.

AMC Theaters owns about 1,000 theaters world-wide, with 11,000 screens.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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