How Screenland theaters are building a community support network

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A nod to Shaun of the Dead on closing night. // Photo courtesy Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts is an owner of Screenland. We asked him to tell us what it’s like to be a small, local theater that’s currently shuttered, what it means for the industry as a whole, and how his community is making it through. They’ve now launched a hub for their own virtual cinemas where you can rent films that support the theatre, Patreon info as well as purchase a gift card.

For the first time since the 1920s, there are no movie theatres in operation in the US. Hollywood productions have all but shuttered, and the entertainment industry as we know it is on permanent hold.

Since 2008, I’ve been running one of the last remaining independent theatres in the Kansas City area. In the last decade, I’ve learned that the industry often favors big chains over small indies, great movies might not bring in a big audience and in Kansas City, where the multiplex was born, it can be very difficult to pull people away from their suburban chain theater.

As a small business owner, every day is a new battle to fight. Of all the issues we’ve had to deal with throughout the years, I never would have guessed that the biggest challenge to my business would end up being a global pandemic.

Operating a movie theatre is a little less mom and pop than it may appear on the outside. Our theatre is owned and operated by movie lovers. We have invested heavily in the technology of our theatre including digital projectors, new screens, comfortable seating, and Dolby digital equipment and speakers. And that’s just one half of Screenland Theatres – all of this comes in addition to everything it takes to run a bar and restaurant. Basically, there is a reason no one is casually opening new independent movie theatres. It’s risky and very expensive. While regular business keeps us healthy, and able to invest in the best experience for our guests, these bills don’t stop coming just because our customers do.

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Empty Screenland Armour really hurts to see. // Photo courtesy Adam Roberts

With all major releases postponed or moved to video-on-demand, we have no idea when we will be able to be a fully operating theatre again. Until most major markets (and chains) reopen, studios won’t commit to dating their films for release, and when they do, they will still need to market and prepare, all of which takes time. It’s not “just 30 days” for us. Most industry individuals assume this will be early summer. That’s a long time for our screens to be dark.

It’s a very scary time for all of us business owners. Each of them with their own unique story and ways of navigating this unprecedented time. A lot of bars and restaurants are in similar spots only we have the unique problem of incredibly higher debt and we can’t just reopen when they say we can. We won’t be at full strength for many many months.

We have applied for SBA disaster loans, but we all can agree taking loans out to pay other ones isn’t great. So, we are trying to find unique ways to generate revenue that doesn’t involve someone actually seeing a movie. That’s tough, right?

Initially, we offered (and still do!) gift cards and donations online for people to purchase. The first 48 hours we had a great amount of support and then, all at once, they stopped.

We realized that we will have to do a lot more than gift cards to stay afloat. So, we’re getting creative over here to bring our film community together and keep the historic Armour Theatre alive and well.

We have started a Patreon where we can connect with film lovers and provide them with unique content like podcasts, watch parties, live trivia, blogs, script reads, and much more. It’s our way of providing a service and for you, film lover, to help us out in our time of need.

Please consider us. See you on the other side.

Update: If you movies through Screenland Armour’s site, 100% of the proceeds go to Screenland. Which absolutely rules. I hope we can see more of this. 

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Adam Roberts at closing. // Photo courtesy Adam Roberts

Categories: Movies, News