In October, when New York State allowed cinemas to reopen in some locations, Cinemapolis – a small independent theater in Ithaca – decided not to do so. Executive Director Brett Bossard said it doesn’t look right to him.
“We really didn’t want to be the only cinema in a wide enough radius that was open and potentially an attractor for the virus in our community,” Bossard said.
The theater got a paycheck protection program loan in April, but it’s over now. With its savings and a few donations, Cinemapolis continued to remunerate its 12 employees.
But Bossard just made the 2021 budget, and “we will need additional support to function in any capacity for the year to come,” he said.
And the theater may soon get that support. The congressional relief program includes $ 15 billion for independent theaters, as well as concert halls and other cultural institutions.
Bossard said money was needed because even when the theater reopens it will be limited by state to 25% capacity. And he won’t have a lot of movies to show.
Cinemapolis shows a lot of independent films, but it relies on cross-studio hits – like last year’s “Parasite” or “Little Women” – to draw people in.
And because so many theaters are closed, studios have delayed the release of their films.
“One thing we were waiting for this fall was the new Wes Anderson movie,” he said. “It’s just kind of been put on the back burner, I think indefinitely until more markets are opened.”
This is one of the reasons that despite vaccines, theaters need the money now, said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxofficepro.com.
“We still have a very harsh winter to go through, and exhibitors don’t have a lot of new products coming out until March,” Robbins said.
This has just come out of a year of dismal attendance. According to the National Association of Theater Owners, theaters only collected about 10% of ticket sales during the pandemic than they did at the same time last year.