By Roxanne Vallado
Executive Director, Plumas Arts
The question we hear a lot is “When will the theatre reopen?” The answer is, “We fully plan to re-open, but…”
Right now to comply with COVID restrictions, we can’t and the actual date remains a moving target. Here is a bit of what has made it hard to know…
Release dates for the movies we expected to see in Spring and Summer — Mulan, Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick, No Time to Die to name a few — have all been changed to October or November or into 2021. And in all honesty, we would not be surprised if they are pushed back again, since dates are moving farther away on a weekly basis.
Some of the other films we expected to see in theaters were released for home viewing. All theaters are hoping that this will stop as soon as we are able to re-open; otherwise, we fear as a culture that we may lose the big-screen theatre-going movie experience.
Motivation to see a movie
Theatre-goers are disinclined to go out, when, in the interest of public health and safety, we are all being asked to be at home. The theaters that did briefly re-open were showing older films, but then they had to close again. With so many people at home watching movies, it will take something new and fresh to bring them out again.
How to make ends meet
Current COVID 19 restrictions limit the theater to 25 percent of capacity (60 people) along with physical distancing, sanitizing and mask wearing; which makes things like the concessions, bathrooms, and even entry lines problematic. All pose logistical issues and require more staffing while limiting income, making it nearly impossible to make ends meet.
Film distributors take as much as 65 percent (and at least 45 percent) of ticket sales for most movies. That means, at an average of $7 per ticket with 60 people, we bring in no more than $400 a showing and get to keep between $200-$150 of those ticket sales. That does not cover costs. This is why concession sales are so important.
Making it work for the future
In the best of times, the Town Hall Theatre operates on a barely break-even basis. As we consider new ways to do business under COVID considerations, we are looking at:
- online pre-purchased ticket sales (to avoid turning people away at the door when we reach capacity),
- credit/debit card sales at the box office and concessions stand,
- “60 and over only” movie nights and
- on-screen pre-movie programming sponsored by agencies, businesses and individual community patrons.
The last thing we want to do is to raise ticket prices, but we may have to bump Adult and Senior/Student them up by a dollar.
The first thing that must be accomplished to reopen is getting the digital projector up and running again. A manufacturer equipment flaw — that we were not warned about — caused the internal media interface to fail when they were turned off. This is a problem that theaters around the world are facing.
The back-ordered part just arrived. Now we await a technician from Portland to install it. All told this will be a $10,500 expense. We drained our savings/reserve account to pay for it since we have had no income for four months now, with more months ahead.
Donations greatly appreciated
If you would like to support the theater, mail a check to the Town Hall Theatre, P.O. Box 600, Quincy CA 95971 or donate online plumasarts.org/townhalltheatre
Our first on-screen slide will be a “Thanks for Getting us Back on Screen” in recognition of those who have been able to make a donation.
The Town Hall Theatre is owned and operated as service to the community by Plumas Arts. To get the most current information subscribe to our email list https://www.plumasarts.org/contact-us.html or become a friend on our Town Hall Theatre Facebook page.
An additional note: The drive-in theater idea keeps popping up, and much as we love that idea our projector and our screen do not move, and our theatrical film licensing makes it impossible for a movie house like ours to temporarily move outside.