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August 8, 2020
Hello My Cinema Faithful,
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad.” —Howard Beale (Peter Finch), ‘Network’
CinemaSalem, one of our inspirations and our “sister cinema,” has closed permanently. Corporate chain AMC is essentially in hospice care. And our other exhibitor friends in the area are scared that the end is nigher than ever. And they should be—70% of moviegoers now prefer to watch a new release movie at home. Yes, surviving movie theaters will begin to reopen locally soon, but will it really be safe to do so? When will people have confidence enough to return to theaters in the numbers of days past? Will the movie business ever be the same again?
We have thought long and hard about this, and we do not feel that we (or any venue) can safely reopen until after “Vaccine Day.” The nature of our microcinema is intimacy (our space on Rogers Street seats 75 in around 1600 sq. ft.), and even with distancing guidelines—which take our per-show occupancy down to around and unsustainable 15—and other precautions, the risk is too great to our patron base and staff. We also feel that another outbreak is imminent by year’s end, which will send everyone back home again.
The other side of that coin, of course, is the costs involved in reopening after the long lockdown. While we love our new space on Rogers Street behind Floating Lotus, keeping it until “Vaccine Day” while undertaking all of the safety requirements with little to no revenue through a date TBD is an expensive proposition, and would break us. Regrettably, we must give up the space—at least for now—and reduce our footprint at the Whistlestop Mall in Rockport. This means donating all the seating and acquiring new seating when the time is right, and hoping that space is still available then.
We also feel that the majority of you, our patron base who has kept us vibrant since our debut in 2007, will not come out regularly enough—or at all—until the Pandemic is safely in our collective rear-view. Seriously, how fun will a no-talking, no-eating, fearing-for-your-life night out really be?Also, from the start, our patron base has skewed older, a demographic that is very high-risk during this germ war. I could just not bear it if I knew that any one of you got sick and died as a result of visiting our Cinema. I love films, this community, and all of you, but, come on…
The movie business has changed forever as a result of this Pandemic. There will always be brick-and-mortar theaters, and we hope to continue to be one of them when it is safe to re-open. But, as I said, it’s just not safe.
So where do we go from here? As you may know, we have been offering a virtual multiplex of new releases by way of our virtual cinema portal, CACC@HOME. Using it helps us sustain during this seemingly interminable downtime. And coming this fall is our own streaming service, The OurTown Movie Channel (which a friend suggested that we dub “Newtflix”). It will look a lot like The Criterion Channel (with the framework built by the same folks), and will contain as much as we can bring you of the diverse programming you’ve come to expect from us.
Stay safe, folks. We’ll meet again, some sunny day.