A new Brookhaven new movie theater is having its grand opening on June 10 – a year after it opened to the public.

NCG Cinema Brookhaven, a branch of the Michigan-based movie theater chain Neighborhood Cinema Group, opened in Brookhaven at 3365 Buford Highway last June – right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We were never able to do a ribbon cutting grand opening,” said Ryan Jankovic, executive vice president of NCG Cinema. “As we got into six months and eight months, we said, well, we’re close enough to one year now. Why don’t we do a one-year celebration and official grand opening then? So we really targeted June as the time to do our grand opening.” 

Jankovic said the theater was originally supposed to open on March 20, 2020, but plans for that were scrapped as the pandemic worsened, and eventually movie theaters and other businesses closed. Gov. Brian Kemp allowed movie theaters and other entertainment venues to re-open with restrictions on April 24, 2020, but still local business owners voiced their concerns about whether things were happening too fast. 

Still, NCG Cinema decided to move ahead. Jankovic said the theater spent the extra time from March to June figuring out how to open in the safest way possible.

“By the time it reached the beginning of June, we had all of our signage, our personal protective equipment. We had all of our cleaning protocols,” he said. “With limited capacities, we felt comfortable that we could do this safely. We thought, what better way to experiment than with our brand new theater that no one had ever sat in before?

While Kemp lifted capacity restrictions for movie theaters in June, Jankovic said residents didn’t exactly rush back to the theater. In order to minimize losses, the theater had to run on shorter hours, have fewer staff members, cut down on concessions and make other sacrifices. Jankovic said the theater thought about trying to offer virtual programming or operate a drive-in, like some other theaters around town had done, but ultimately NCG Cinema wanted to find a solution that worked for all of their theaters across the country. 

“When people want to come in and get a two-hour vacation, there’s a certain type of atmosphere that they’re looking for,” he said. “We didn’t feel like we could be the best to provide a virtual or drive-in experience.”

But as the Georgia Department of Public Health reports that 41% of Georgians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine along with a drop of confirmed cases in the state, Jankovic said the theater finally decided to move forward with its “grand opening” and invite more residents to check out the theater.

“Usually our grand opening is the first time anyone’s ever been in the building,” he said. “We have had about 14,000 customers come in over the last year, so we’ve had significant traffic that’s come in and been there before. But we haven’t really had an opportunity for those that haven’t been or maybe aren’t aware to celebrate this state-of-the-art, brand new theater.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on June 10 at 3 p.m. It will be a private event, but residents are invited to watch on the theater’s Facebook page, according to a press release. The ceremony will include speakers such as the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Alan Goodman, Brookhaven Economic Development Director Shirlynn Brownell Forston, and local artist and activist Yehimi Cambrón.

Cambrón painted the mural on the wall outside of the theater, called “Mi Gente.” NCG partnered with the Atlanta History Center in the development of the theater to include art from local artists in the theater’s design and celebrate the Latino community along Buford Highway, according to the press release. The murals inside the theater were painted by another local artist, Roberto Hernandez. 

Jankovic said the doors will open to the public at 7 p.m., and throughout the weekend moviegoers will receive free popcorn with any concession purchase. 

“We couldn’t be happier to be able to use this as a way to welcome our neighbors in the door,” he said. “Welcome to the brand new NCG Brookhaven theater.”

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.