Art house theaters fight amid pandemic – The Hollywood Reporter



The COVID-19 relief plan adopted in December is expected to distribute $ 15 billion to arts venues, which include independent theaters. Around the greater Los Angeles area, some small theaters have closed all of their operations during the length of the shutdown that began in March, including the Vista, the Downtown Independent and the New Beverly Cinema owned by Quentin Tarantino. Here’s how four more are struggling to stay afloat as the National Association of Theater Owners estimates that 70% of smaller theaters are at risk of closing without federal help.


To help supplement revenue from their Oscar-qualified drive-in cinema – launched in December in the Egyptian Theater parking lot and seating 20 cars – the Arena Cinelounge sells gourmet popcorn online, shipped nationwide . “We have 12 gourmet Cinelounge popcorn mixes. I have to rely on the popcorn income stream to generate income, ”said CEO and founder Christian Meoli. However, Meoli explains that the income from the popcorn – so far it has “over $ 100,000 for us,” he says – is “less than 90% of what we [normally] generate as a whole, as a business. Getting the drive-in to work isn’t easy either. “We are spending up to five times what we would normally spend with our inner business to make it happen,” says Meoli, who is asking for help under the COVID-19 relief bill. “Funding is vital to save part of our culture, part of our society. Who wants to lose the theaters? It also manages a virtual projection room for new versions to


This Gardena theater has been run by the Kim family since 1976. For additional income from their drive-thru show series, which debuted last year in their large parking lot, they sell concession items and movie posters. and feature interviews Zoom In on special film screenings, like the one with jurassic park cinematographer Dean Cundey. They also rented the theater for music videos and television and film productions. Although the Gardena cinema ( received a small economic disaster loan last year, they are also asking for help through the COVID-19 relief bill. According to principal Judy Kim, “I can use all the help I can get. Hopefully this will get me through the pandemic until things get back to “normal” no matter what. Regarding audience tastes at the Gardena drive-through, Kim says, “Audiences love movies from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. There seems to be a longing for the blissful freedom of decades past.” “


The Beverly Hills Theater shows both independent and foreign films (at and sell items from its concession stand for limited hours. “We tried to do drive-ins; it didn’t work for us, ”says co-owner Peter Ambrosio, who also started a GoFundMe campaign to help the theater survive, raising just over $ 12,000 of its goal of $ 90,000 so far. Ambrosio hopes the stimulus bill “will give us the boost we need to weather the storm.” Among the owners’ frustrations is the lack of government guidance during the closure. Said Ambrosio: “[Government officials] don’t offer guidelines for small businesses on how to deal with landlords, deal with taxes. If you’re going to shut down all these businesses, why not create a bond, or an arbitration system to manage the rents, to manage the taxes, just so the small businesses can plan? “


Orange County’s only non-profit arthouse theater features films in pop-up drive-ins in various OC locations and streamed through its website ( Among their diverse selection of films, the most popular genre is horror. “Drive-ins and streaming movies have allowed us to continue our mission, but their collective box office is far from reflecting the returns of a two-screen cinema seven days a week,” explains the director of Frida Cinema. director and founder Logan Crow. “Every dollar really has a huge impact. The theater also supplements income by selling merchandise, live streaming special events, and hosting online fundraising marathons. Crow adds, “Grants and initiatives like the COVID-19 Relief Bill allow us to fill these gaps. If we are to survive this, support, and God willing, get to a point in the future where we can see some growth again, we will need very substantial support. “

A version of this story first appeared in the February 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.


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