The commercial landscape around Cape West 14 Cine was empty for the first time in months Friday. The parking lot of the theater, however, was packed with cars as people crowded into one of the few places open Christmas Day.
After watching "Avatar" at the theater, Cindy Poole, her son and his girlfriend reluctantly called it a night.
"I guess we're done since we couldn't get a second movie," she said.
Going to the movies is a Christmas tradition going on 14 years for Poole and her son, Joey Poole. Some years they have seen as many as three movies at multiple theaters on Christmas Day.
"It takes planning," she said. "You have to figure out what movies come on at what time."
The group originally planned to see "Sherlock Holmes" after the first movie, but it was sold out. In hindsight, she said they should have bought the tickets beforehand.
For theater managers, Christmas Day is one of the busiest days of the year. After opening presents and eating Christmas dinner, families head out of the house with few options for entertainment.
"It's not uncommon for someone to come up and buy 15 tickets," said Kevin Dillon, general manager of Cape West 14 Cine. He said bigger groups come to the movies on Christmas. This year, three new movies opened at the theater, enticing the crowd, he said.
"It's something that the whole family can get out and do together," he said.
Starting at 3 p.m., he said the theater is fully staffed for the afternoon crowd.
"We try to make sure our crew has time to be with their family," he said.
Fourth of July weekend also tends to draw in a bigger crowd because summer blockbusters open that weekend.
At Town Plaza, the parking lot was barren aside from a cluster of cars around the entrance of the cinema.
Theater manager T.J. McKinney said the crowd started to pick up around 2 p.m.
While business increases on Christmas, he said bigger movies draw bigger crowds throughout the year.
"It's not so much the day of the year," he said. "It's the nature of the movie."
Films like "New Moon," the latest installment in the Twilight series, and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" always bring people to theaters, he said.
"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel," which opened Wednesday, attracted more families and the Christmas crowd, he said.
"Families are together and they're looking for something to do together," he said.
Amber Anderson and her mother Alka Johnson waited outside of a theater at Cape West 14 Cine for the rest of their group. Anderson and Johnson saw "It's Complicated." Everyone else saw "Avatar."
In all, eight people piled into two cars to drive from Ullin, Ill., she said.
"You can only sit down and do nothing for so long," said Anderson. Christmas, she said, was a relaxing, worry-free day with some inexpensive entertainment.
"It's back to work tomorrow," said Anderson, who works for AT&T.
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