With congressional support, what are the prospects for movie theaters?
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In October, when New York state allowed theaters in certain places to reopen, Cinemapolis — a small, independent theater in Ithaca — decided not to. Executive Director Brett Bossard said it didn’t feel right.
“We really didn’t want to be the one movie theater in a pretty large radius to be open and be potentially an attractor for the virus into our community,” Bossard said.
The theater got a Paycheck Protection Program loan in April, but that’s gone now. With the help of its savings and some donations, Cinemapolis has continued to pay its 12 employees.
But Bossard just did the 2021 budget, and “we are going to need some additional support to operate in any capacity for the coming year,” he said.
And the theater may soon get that support. The congressional relief package includes $15 billion for independent movie theaters, as well as concert venues and other cultural institutions.
Bossard said that money is needed because even when the theater does reopen, it will be limited by the state to 25% capacity. And it won’t have many movies to show.
Cinemapolis shows a lot of indie films, but it relies on crossover hits from studios — like last year’s “Parasite” or “Little Women” — to bring people in.
And because so many theaters are closed, studios have been delaying their movie releases.
“One thing that we were waiting on this fall was the new Wes Anderson film,” he said. “That’s just been sort of mothballed, I think indefinitely until more markets are open.”
That’s one of the reasons that despite the vaccines, theaters need the money now, said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxofficepro.com.
“We still have a very rough winter to get through, and exhibitors don’t have a lot of new product coming out until March,” Robbins said.
This is coming off a year of dismal attendance. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, movie theaters have collected only about 10% of the ticket sales during the pandemic that they did in the same period last year.
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