WAIMEA — As theater chains across the country ceased operations and movie-goers turned to streaming platforms, the ongoing pandemic put small movie theaters in a bind.
On Kaua’i, the Kukui Grove 4 Cinemas closed its doors for good due to the changing theatrical business models and the damaging effects of the pandemic. The closure leaves the historic Waimea Theatre as the last single-screen operating theater on Kaua’i.
This theater almost suffered the same fate as Kukui Grove 4 Cinemas. With the stay-at-home order in place, its operations ceased. Without patrons, the theater turned to grab-and-go concession-stand sales.
As restrictions loosened, patrons were welcomed back for free shows with food sales on the side. While the little income benefited the theater, Thomas Nizo, theater manager, turned to federal grants and business loans to keep the theater afloat.
“During the pandemic and a little bit after it was scary to think that theaters weren’t going to survive, but with the announcements from film distributors, I think theaters will stay around,” Nizo said.
Federal grants included the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants program that was established by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act, and amended by the American Rescue Plan Act to be administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance.
The theater also received a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, also administered by the SBA. Locally, the Waimea Theatre made a proposal to the Kekaha Host Community Benefits Program under economic revitalization. In total, the theater received $286,000 to pay for its operating costs until reopening.
“As we are slowly making progress to open up and with the return of the movie theater, I think it makes people happy, myself included, to come out and watch a movie with friends or family rather than staying home and streaming on Disney+ or HBO Max,” said Damon K. Ines, a Kekaha resident.
”I think it’s also exciting to have the opportunity to do something again. It’s the feeling of getting back to pre-pandemic normalcy, which is a great thing,” said Ines.
Movie-goers have the option to choose how they consume content.
With the coronavirus pandemic and the temporary shutdown of theaters, the entertainment industry was forced to restructure its standard theatrical window.
“Windowing” refers to the amount of time between a film’s theatrical release date and its home-entertainment release date.
Traditionally, theaters played films within a 75-to–day window before the release becoming available on DVD. When the pandemic began last spring, studios delayed the release of their 2020 film slates, which led the Disney Company to grow its subscribers. However, Disney announced that its remaining 2021 film slate will have a minimum 45-day theatrical release.
Warner Bros. went for the bold strategy of releasing its entire slate of 2021 offerings simultaneously in theaters and HBO Max, which received criticism from media executives. However, Warner Media stated that this plan was only meant for 2021. Moving forward, the studio will adopt the 45-day window before its content shifts to HBO Max starting in 2022.
The news from film distributors in regards to preserving the theatrical window is great news for the Waimea Theatre, said Nizo.
The 270-seat Waimea Theatre reopened its curtains to a 90-seat capacity. It’s recommended to purchase tickets through its website, waimeatheater.com/, due to the limited number of tickets available at the box office.
“Venom” is currently playing at the theater, every day except Monday and Tuesday. Rumba De Fuego performs live at the Dia de los Muertos event this Saturday, Oct. 30.
Meighan Parubrub is a student in the Kaua‘i Community College creative media class.
Source: The Garden Island