Theaters maintain positive outlook
Last updated 8/11/2020 at 4:15pm
It may be hard to remember now, but before the pandemic began, streaming movies on our TVs and laptops was not the only way of enjoying a new film.
Movie theaters have been hit hard by COVID-19. As places where groups of people would gather together in close proximity, their prolonged closure has not been a surprise under current health and safety mandates.
North Plains 7 of Clovis is one location of the Allen Theaters chain whose closed status has not changed since shortly after they limited their auditoriums to 100 people on March 12. Since its closure, Allen Theaters has set up drive-ins in Las Cruces and Farmington, with plans to extend to Gallup, Roswell, and Clovis. The drive-ins are not as satisfying for the co-owner of Allen Theaters, Russell Allen.
"I would much rather sell tickets inside than outside," Allen said.
It is still unsure when the pandemic will end and businesses like theaters can reopen. However, places like Allen Theaters have history backing their positive outlook on the future.
"It will take some time but I also know that historically movies have done remarkably well in times when people are stressed," Allen said. "The Great Depression, 9/11, the wars. When people have stress in their lives, going to the movies is medicine for the soul. It allows people to get away for those couple of hours, and go to some other galaxy."
He said this aftermath will undoubtedly be different than the stressful scenarios of the past. Allen Theaters is meeting that head on by coming up with plans for social distancing in the screening rooms, new cleaning procedures, and spaced out movie times to avoid the congregation of crowds. They hope to make an environment that feels and is safe enough for people to enjoy again.
Russell spoke to the aide and stimulus that the government was providing during the pandemic, and Allen Theaters' participation in that.
"We participate in the PPP, Payment Protection Program, and were able to get funds but those funds are almost gone. We'd prefer to be open, instead of asking the government for help. That is always my last choice," Allen said.
He voiced support of the "Save Your Cinema" petition that the Clovis Chamber of Commerce has linked on its website, saying it is a great way for the community to show support.
"If everybody is doing better when the tide rises, everyone rises. So we're supportive of that," Allen said.
#SaveYourCinema is a campaign conducted by the National Association of Theater Owners. NATO represents over 35,000 movie screens in all 50 states, and their efforts with this are to "protect, innovate, and improve the movie theater experience for audiences everywhere." Those who want to participate can go to saveyourcinema.com and fill out a short form that NATO sends to Congress.
Before the pandemic, theaters were facing a different type of disturbance to their business - online streaming. Allen said that for them, the streaming services did not have much of an impact as people who consume movies are likely to do it anywhere and any way they can.
"Movie goers consume movies everywhere," Allen said. "I think it ultimately lets movie studios make bigger budget films which are always better on the big screen. Has it negatively affected us? Not as much as it potentially has positively affected us."