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Little Rock movie theater owner hopeful for return to normalcy

For Matt Smith, the owner of Riverdale 10, a movie theater in Little Rock, the past year definitely hasn't been easy for him.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The pandemic changed a lot of different things and a lot of different industries. For Matt Smith, the owner of Riverdale 10, a movie theater in Little Rock, the past year definitely hasn't been easy for him.

"Chaos," he said. "Absolute chaos."

Smith had a smoother year than many in his industry. Riverdale 10 and the other four theaters he owns were only shut down for roughly eight weeks.

"I mean, everything changed," Smith said. "Like it did for everyone, I mean it's been a roller coaster."

The ever-changing outlook COVID-19 brought to the silver screen made things even more challenging.

From less people allowed in theaters to running specials to attract as many people as possible, things haven't looked the same over the past 13 months.

"You know, it's been a constant changing phenomenon," Smith said. "Basically for 13 months now, you know, since March of 2020."

But it's been over a year since Arkansas shut down, and almost a year since Riverdale 10 reopened its doors.

We've seen many businesses, in a wide range of industries, go back to some sort of normal.

"Well, if people get the freedom to make that choice again, they're going to go," Smith said. "I think a lot of people return to the cinema just cause they can."

Part of the reason for that may come from the fact that more people are getting vaccinated daily.

But Smith says there's another reason people may be drawn back.

"Everybody's coming out, and you have that movie as a cultural touchstone," he said.

One of the other issues that may finally be caught up on is the push back that movie releases saw. Smith says he saw many movies that would have been blockbusters have their releases pushed back because of the pandemic.

Now that those movies will be released, Smith says this is the best time to head back to the theater.

"Once it starts, there is going to be a movie that people are aware of that people want to see, a potential blockbuster, every Friday for 18 months straight," he said. "It is going to be a phenomenal movie-going time."