Arts & Entertainment

Isn’t it grand? Trial run for Indie Theatre opening

For three days during the Tacoma Film Festival The Grand Cinema will open its doors.

During Nov. 12-14, the Grand Cinema will be hosting a ‘trial run’ to prepare to reopen their doors to the public. The theatre will be holding this trial run in correspondence during the 15th Annual Tacoma Film Festival with select in-person showings. 

Unlike Cinemark theatres in the South Puget Sound, The Grand did not reopen mid-October because they wanted to collect more information before proceeding. In the past month they conducted a reopening input survey that garnered 1,830 responses. In a letter to The Grand Cinema’s email subscribers Philip Cowan, Executive Director of the Grand Cinema, stated that they weren’t  “quite ready to open our doors on a consistent basis.”

Cowan went on to state that there are three important factors to consider when deciding to fully open their doors. The first concern is safety. Cowan remarked that out of all the survey responders, 28% answered that they “plan to hold out until this has passed, waiting for a vaccine.” 

In his letter, Cowan stated that response is valid. He then went on to illustrate his plans to socially distance films by limiting guest entry to 25% capacity if they open. The theatre will also have seating six feet apart from each other and require the moviegoers to wear masks at all times. Moreover, the cinema will not be serving concessions in order to limit touch-interaction as well. While he hopes that these measures will stop outbreaks from occurring, he acknowledges that nothing is certain with this virus. Cowan remarked that decreasing case counts will play a large factor as to when they plan to fully reopen to the public.

As many corporate studios are pushing back their release dates for their blockbuster films, the second concern is the variety of movies that will be available when they reopen. While “Wonder Woman 1984” and “No Time To Die” have faced numerous pushbacks and “CandyMan” along with “Tomb Raider 2” now awaiting a release date, movies like “Mulan,” “Soul” and “Bill and Ted Face the Music” had to shift their releases strictly to digital streaming. With a limited supply of high profile films, it would also limit the number of people attending considering 35% of the survey respondents stated they “may attend, for the right film.” 

This brings us to their third concern, the financial upset of reopening. There are a substantial amount of expenses that go into reopening — such as staff, building expenses and film costs. It would be difficult for the Grand Cinema to break even at such limited seating capacity.

Most recently, Cowan explained there is a “slightly better than 50/50 chance” for the theatres to open for Thanksgiving and Christmas after they collect more information from the trial run.

While their doors are currently closed, the Grand Cinema has curated films for at-home viewings. These films are available for purchase under the ‘Virtual Screening Room’ section of their website. They also expanded their at home services by providing television rentals for $250.

The Tacoma Film Festival is also accessible to at-home viewers. Those interested can purchase tickets at a $1 service charge through TFF’s website, allowing them to view films for up to 72 hours. Although “Since I’ve Been Down” is the centerpiece film, this year’s festival has an expansive lineup of over 125 films, seventeen of them being feature films only accessible in Washington.