Although many businesses have reopened to the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic, movie cinemas have remained closed locally and nationally, but there may be a way theatergoers can help.
The Chicago Tribune reported last week the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), which represents “America’s 35,00 movie screens,” is petitioning the U.S. Congress to “Save Your Cinema.”
Last week NATO created a social media hashtag #SaveYourCinema, which launched a political-action website, the article stated. The website will gather signatures on e-petitions which support the RESTART Act, a small business relief package that was proposed earlier in the year by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Janie Dunn-Rankin, whose family has owned movie theater businesses in Sedalia for decades, spoke with the Democrat by phone from Florida, Monday afternoon. Dunn-Rankin’s grandfather Joseph T. Ghosen opened the Star Theatre in Sedalia in the 1920s. He also built the Uptown Theatre in 1936 for $50,000.
Dunn-Rankin’s parents Margie (Ghosen) Wagenknecht and the late John Wagenknecht and her late brother Seth Wagenknecht opened Galaxy Cinemas in 1998. She is now the owner/ operator of Galaxy, which posted the NATO link on its Facebook page for patrons to sign.
Dunn-Rankin said the Galaxy closed March 18 and she had no idea it would still be
closed in July or that there still isn’t a specific opening date.
“It’s disappointing, it’s devastating to think that we really don’t have an opening date,” she said. “We had several target dates that we thought we were going to open but it got pushed back due to increased cases of COVID-19 and also therefore the delay in the major studios of the big titles.”
On Monday afternoon, the Associated Press reported a ray of hope for movie theatres.
“Warner Bros. on Monday said ‘Tenet’ will arrive in more than 70 countries on Wednesday, Aug. 26, including Japan, Russia, much of Europe, Australia and Canada,” AP stated. “The $200 million thriller will open in the U.S. about a week later on Thursday, Sept. 3.”
Dunn-Rankin was excited to say if all goes well, the Galaxy may open on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7.
She added that while waiting to open, the theatre still has fixed costs that need to be paid each month.
“You just can’t turn off the lights and walk away from the building,” Dunn-Rankin said. “The digital projector has to be maintained, it has to be turned on weekly, it has to have content run through it. You can’t just shut it down.”
She noted she posted the #SaveYourCinema link not only to help Galaxy Cinemas, but for all movie theatre owners across the U.S.
“I don’t want the industry to go away,” she added. “I want to continue in an industry that my grandfather started in Sedalia in 1927. I don’t want to lose a long line of family involvement.
“The businesses that are shuttered, it’s all the mom and pop businesses downtown and across our city that need the help,” she added. “My understanding is the RESTART Act is trying to get funds that would go to help with those fixed costs or a portion thereof.”
She noted “you want to help those who hurt the most” and said the Galaxy is here to stay — the cinema plans to reopen.
“We’ll be back, it’s just we don’t know when,” she said. “And it’s so frustrating to not know when.”
Dunn-Rankin said once the Galaxy is able to show new releases it may entertain the thought of showing classic movies also.
“We will need the community’s support when we do open again,” she said.
To fill out a form letter for legislators, visit the Galaxy Cinemas Facebook page and click the link #SaveYourCinema – Demand Action To Save Local Movie Theatres.