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A Christmas blockbuster: Nickelodeon Cinemas shares the Star Wars wealth

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film_star wars_123115Always known for its obscure and lesser-known titles, Nickelodeon Cinemas in Portland is playing Joy, The Danish Girls and The Big Short as holiday options.

Then, there's that small, indie movie about a loose-knit group’s fight against oppression. It’s called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The latest installment in the Disney-owned science fiction franchise is undeniably a mainstream juggernaut rumbling through theaters, and those venues where it’s packing seats include the 1 Temple St. mainstay of film buffs in Portland.

"It went great, we actually sold out Cinema 1 back to back on Christmas Day. The first two shows of the day, we sold them out," said Sam Mercer, general manager at Nickelodeon Cinemas.

"We did some great business," he said, describing Christmas Day and the day after Christmas as peak sales days.

With six theaters, Nickelodeon Cinemas typically boasts those hard-to-find gems, and Mercer said that mission remains intact amid Star Wars fervor.

"We wanted to bring in some new films for the holiday weekend as well," he said, citing Joy, a David O. Russell family drama; The Danish Girl, a British-American feature focusing on painting and sex-reassignment surgery in the 1920s; and The Big Short, a financial industry tell-all that's an American Film Institute Award winner.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, while undeniably mainstream, also has won rave reviews. And fans have made the latest installment a record breaker, topping $1 billion in ticket sales — the fastest movie to do so. Mercer noted the excitement as people of all ages crowded into the Nickelodeon — "even people who had never seen Star Wars before."

Mercer described the atmosphere as "busy but excited, it's one of those movies where literally everybody comes to see it."

"With a movie like Star Wars coming out, it's just massively busy," he said.

Mercer recalled a similar pent-up demand during a past holiday season when the Quentin Tarantino epic of 2012, Django Unchained, created a crush of people at the Nickelodeon.

Mercer hopes to bring in Tarantino's new film, The Hateful Eight, as well as another period piece, The Revenant, among a slate of films that he has his eye on.

"We try to have a nice mix of some current blockbusters as well as something that you could not see elsewhere," Mercer said.

For those holdouts who still want to see (or rewatch) Star Wars: The Force Awakens, they can catch a break in the next week. Star Wars will be among the $5 movies offered on "Bargain Tuesdays," starting Jan. 5, Mercer said.

The Nickelodeon is open on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. "Unless there is a weather emergency, we are open," Mercer said, citing one day that the cinema couldn't open, which was early this year during punishing storms in the winter of 2014-15.

Nickelodeon Cinemas, 1 Temple St., Portland | 207.772.9751 | Buy tickets online at www.patriotcinemas.com