In a land far, far away, there once was a thing called movie theaters. People would trickle into these magical places to feast their eyes on knowledge, humor and entertainment. They would indulge in sweet and buttery snacks, recline in chairs with their feet on plush carpet (not 6 feet apart, might I add) and take a break from the business of their days. Then suddenly, like the finale to a movie, everything went black when the pandemic hit. All this joy was stripped away, leaving phones and laptops to fill the viewing void.
Cinemapolis, Ithaca’s beloved independent movie theater, is coming out with a reimagined cinema experience. Starting on March 12, movie lovers will be able to book one of five private rooms with up to 15 guests. Guests can preorder snacks and drinks from the concession stand to enhance their experience. It’s a good opportunity to spend time with your friends outside of the home while enjoying a quality picture. Plus, the price is $250 — which, when split between 15 people, equates to $16 — a ticket price for a nice movie.
I spoke to Brett Bossard, the owner for the past eight years. He had previous experience in arts administration and has made it his goal to ramp up efforts to partner with other nonprofits. When he picked up the phone, he was preparing for the reopening: arranging where things would be, making sure the concessions stand was back in order and awaiting the cleaning crew to wash the windows.
For those that don’t know, Cinemapolis is Ithaca’s local non-profit art house cinema that features independent, international and local films year-round. It is housed in the Commons and is easily spotted with its light-up sign and film-roll logo. They are the only theater featuring these types of films in a 100 mile radius. Bossard described the theater as not only a place to screen films, but a “place for community discussion over ideas, film being the way to encourage those ideas.”
Normally, they attract an average of 75,000 customers a year, which is more than double the population of Ithaca. However, now having been closed for 51 weeks, they are earning at best 10% of their normal revenue. Bossard noted that as a nonprofit, they have been able to lean on the generosity of their members, receiving both individual donations and member renewals. They have also had some support from the local government. Still, the pandemic has hit the theater hard, just as it has for theaters all around the globe.
Despite the turmoil, Cinemapolis has done a terrific job at supporting their workers.“The priority is making sure we can support our staff,” said Bossard. They have kept their entire staff of eleven people on payroll. Additionally, Cinemapolis is a certified living wage employer, meaning all staff have been able to continue earning a stable income throughout the pandemic. These staff members will be on a rotating schedule, coming in to work in limited numbers.
So why choose to reopen now? Bossard said, “With the gradual lifting of state restrictions, the time seems right. We could have opened in November, but we have been looking at patrons’ level of comfort.” They have been taking their time and keeping a close eye on the protocols enlisted by the national association of theatre owners — which works with them and big movie theater chains to develop protocols.
In the last 7 days, Cinemapolis has booked 16 parties. They are off to a solid start, but with COVID-19, the consumer base is still fragile. In considering this, Bossard noted: “We are going to assess interest and see where we need to make adjustments to make everyone feel comfortable.” By state guidelines, they are currently at 25% capacity, but hope to reopen this summer with 50%. As of now, they will be showing three films on Thursdays and Fridays, five on Saturdays and four on Sundays, allowing one group in at a time. The goal is really to get staff adjusted to the new normal and to ensure consumers are comfortable.
Currently, guests must provide their own DVD or Blu-ray film. However, in coming months, there will be more options for newly released films and the theatre also intends to reopen this summer. That being said, there are no limitations for what kinds of films viewers can watch — R rated, PG, you name it.
So all you movie fanatics, go on and round up your friends and family for a fun night out and get that experience you have been missing out on for quite some time! Feast your eyes on a throwback film, a classic, or something you have been dying to watch.
Nina Pofcher is a freshman in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at email@example.com.