Small Theaters Face Uncertain Future in Wake of Coronavirus Pandemic – Variety


The Grand Theatre is one of these civic treasures that at all times appears to wish saving.

It was constructed as an opera home in the tiny sawmill city of New London, Wis., in 1895. A century later, it was a run-down movie show, determined for a renovation.

The city’s voters agreed to tax themselves to revive it. However in 2010, the proprietor was nonetheless having a tough time turning a revenue. That’s when Jim Billek stepped in.

Billek, who additionally owns two single-screen theaters in cities farther north, took over and has been operating the place as a four-plex for the previous 9 years. However now, with the coronavirus outbreak, the Grand Cinema Theatres is in massive bother.

“I’m on the backside of the totem pole,” Billek says. “If we don’t provide you with one thing, we’re bankrupt.”

Some small theaters have been angling to get a slice of the $350 billion in federal loans made accessible final month by the stimulus bundle. Billek was not amongst them — he says he doesn’t have sufficient staff to qualify, and even when he did, he doesn’t have a group of accountants readily available to assist with the paperwork.

For now, there’s not a lot to do however sit and hope that when the theaters reopen, the viewers returns.

“You’d must open up fairly darn quick and with a big quantity of folks coming to exhibits in order to show round,” he says. “The ability corporations and the financial institution are usually not going after me proper now. However as soon as we’re open, they’re all going to need their cash quick, particularly the financial institution.”

Invoice Campbell owns three theaters — a six-plex in Sheridan, Wyo., and a twin and a single-screen in Montana.

He stated he hopes the cinemas can resume operations on the finish of Could. He has obtained a small mortgage — lower than $100,000 — by the Paycheck Safety Program. That may enable him to maintain most of his workers at the least by Could.

“Some of my school children and highschool children most likely received’t get unemployment,” he says. “I’m the federal government’s unemployment for my workers.”

If theaters are allowed to reopen by that point, he expects to emerge roughly unscathed. However an extended closure could possibly be an issue.

“If it does go 4 months, then we’re again to ‘What will we do? Lay off our staff?’” he says. “Sooner or later issues have gotten to reopen.”

Russell Allen runs Allen Theatres, based mostly in Las Cruces, N.M. He foresees a backlash if issues don’t begin up quickly.

“Some of these little cities round New Mexico, there’s no one that’s bought [the coronavirus],” Allen says. “And also you’re having the sturdy arm of the federal government telling you you’ll be able to’t open. It’s a tough capsule to swallow. Our freedoms are being taken. That’s very disturbing — and it was straightforward to be completed.”

Allen says he was accepted for a PPP mortgage in the neighborhood of $250,000. The mortgage will allow him to maintain his full-time important staff on workers through the shutdown.

He’s frightened that when he reopens, there received’t be any films to point out. However ultimately, he predicts, audiences will return.

“We’re gonna have lots of people who need to escape from life,” he says.


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