Address: 555 John F. Kennedy Road, unit 105.
Location opened: 2018
On the web: www.phoenixmovies.net
The allure of cinema seems timeless, as are movie theaters — long the arbiters of popular film preferences where we expect to be entertained. Moved, scared, energized, thought-provoked and transported, going to the movies is one of a few activities that can keep us young at heart, reminding us of endless possibilities and of infinite story varieties and memorable characters.
Yet there have been hiccups of late. The perfect storm of COVID-19 quarantines coupled with the growth of home theaters and streaming movies on services like Disney + and Netflix put movie theater attendance on pause.
Phoenix Theatres in Dubuque has weathered these obstacles and is ready to fill seats and do what it’s meant to do: entertain.
“Theaters are existing but (moviegoers) are not always excited to see movies,” said Phoenix general manager Tyre Hall. “Everything streams and people tend to stay home.”
Thanks in large part to a steady stream of blockbusters, though, moviegoers are returning to see the action on larger screens are possible in homes.
“We are bouncing back close to our pre-COVID numbers,” Hall said. “The revival of Marvel movies is one example of what helps us bounce back. ‘Top Gun’ is another example because it’s a completely different experience at a theater. It can’t really be emulated.”
While blockbuster films are not the only options, they do highlight what screen and sound capabilities Phoenix can reach. The quality of the picture has only increased and sound systems are top-of-the-line, which is something the theater takes pride in. Phoenix uses the latest technologies for screen and sound from Encore, Ovation and Dolby.
Phoenix is a Michigan-based company that operates seven movie theaters throughout the Midwest and Massachusetts.
For a six-screen theater, Dubuque’s Phoenix has plenty to offer, from reclining and heated seats to beer and wine (recently re-introduced). The theater is a draw for home-away-from-home comfort and entertainment. Icees are now on the menu, too, said Hall, and are likely to be a sought-after pairing with summer-time films.
Films are not the only offerings at Phoenix, either. Fans of professional wrestling or boxing can see related events there through Fathom Events Company. While not blockbusters or artistic films, these events are a draw for fans who already live by the motto, “go big or go home.” Viewers can gather in groups to cheer on their favorite athletes as if attending the event in person.
Further, Phoenix will soon have an increased social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to inform viewers of upcoming special events and features.
And, Phoenix will again participate in the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, a local event that takes place in April ever year. The festival includes regional, national and international films and attendees. This year’s festival will take place Wednesday-Sunday, April 26-30.
“It can be a challenge getting everything lined up leading to the (festival),” Hall said. “But it’s usually a lot of fun once it starts. The JDIFF crowd is always pretty nice and seems to enjoy viewings at the theater.”
One of many benefits JDIFF brings to the community is for moviegoers to meet directors, actors and writers in person, something that typically isn’t available with big-market films. The festival highlights the magic of movies in a way that lets would-be filmmakers see that doing so is possible.
While the film festival is an opportunity to see smaller, more unique films, Phoenix also shows quieter films, period pieces and anniversary releases — such as “Casablanca” and “The Big Lebowski.” And it seeks out ways to connect these to community members through special events, whether in relation to a blockbuster film or to a long-loved cult classic.
“We held a ‘Sandlot’ event with tents and activities, and that’s one way to highlight the community experience,” Hall said. “We look for those opportunities.”
To make these and other opportunities more plentiful, Phoenix is looking to expand its space to provide two additional screens.
“More screens will mean showing movies and events we would otherwise have to turn down or not run as long,” Hall said.
As we approach spring and summer, blockbusters abound — “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” “John Wick: Chapter 4” and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” either out now or soon — are sure to draw large audiences. While blockbusters are not the only options, they remain a big draw.
No matter the type of film, though, moviegoers can enjoy a drink, literally put their feet up and snuggle into a warm seat and be transported through the power of film. Just don’t forget the popcorn.