Lindsey Pomper, general manager of Sidney’s iconic Star Cinema, questioned the long-term prospects of the movie theatre industry as the COVID-19 pandemic blacked out sliver screens and sent subscription figures for streaming services into the stratosphere.
Days before this Friday’s (June 18) reopening as authorities ease public health measures to allow for 50 per cent capacity, Pomper strikes a more positive note about the theatre’s future.
“I think movie theatres are an important part of the community,” she said. “It’s a community experience that you can’t really replicate at home. I welcome people back to the movies and I think they will be safe.”
The Star Cinema’s single screening room will go dark for A Quiet Place Part II at 7 p.m. Until then, plenty of work remains, but Pomper and her staff have become old hands at gearing up after a long, involuntary layoff.
After leaving its historic now demolished location at Third Street and Sidney Avenue and moving to its temporary location on Fifth Street in early 2020, the theatre closed during the first COVID-19 wave. They reopened in July but closed again last fall.
“Out of this whole pandemic period, which is 15 or 16 months by now, we have only been open for four months of it. So we are very excited to be open again.”
And this time around, Pomper feels better about the permanency of that development, with consequences for the bottom line.
“I do expect us to have better crowds than we did last summer when we opened during COVID,” she said. “I think the comfort level is entirely different than it was last year and there are actually Hollywood movies being released.”
To be clear: Friday’s reopening won’t mark a full return to the pre-pandemic normal. Attendees must wear masks when not eating or drinking and extensive cleaning procedures remain in place, Pomper added. This said, the difference between now and the summer of 2020 is noticeable. “I feel like we are in a completely different environment than before,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on the bottom line of the theatre. “Having close to zero revenue would be challenging for any business,” said Pomper. “We are lucky to have very supportive landlords in Casman.”
The theatre has applied for various forms of support and generated revenue through popcorn sales. Pomper expects it to take a year to catch up to where they were, and hopes changes to public health measures in the fall will allow her business to operate at full capacity.
Another positive development is the prospect of returning to the corner of Third and Sidney, in a new space as part of the Cameo development under construction. If everything remains on track, the theatre could be in its previous location by early 2022, said Pomper.
The Star Cinema plans daily 7 p.m. showings, as well as matinees on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Visit them online at starcinema.ca.
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