A Popular Ontario Movie Theatre Is Unsure If Cinemas Will Ever Be The Same Again
In a small town of just 300 people, Ontario's Highlands Cinemas usually attracts thousands of visitors from all over the province during a normal year.
Boasting five screens, a museum, movie memorabilia , 42 cats, and unusual wildlife, the theatre has been a community staple for over 40 years.
However, in midst of a pandemic, the future of this beloved theatre is uncertain.
Owner Keith Stata told Narcity about the devastating toll that the past year has taken on his business.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
Despite its small-town location, Highlands Cinemas usually draws about 55,000 visitors during its operating season from May to Thanksgiving.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, however, the theatre doors have remained closed.
"I didn't even bother trying [to open]," Stata said.
"With social distancing in a 70-seat theatre, we can put five people in."
Stata explained that the cost of opening the theatre would be more expensive than keeping it closed.
"We're praying that we can get through only losing $75,000, but the problem is not just this year, it's next year," he said.
"Our gross is normally around $400,000, this year it was 200 bucks."
What does the pandemic mean for cinema culture?
Stata voiced that the cinema's closure would mean more than just the loss of a theatre.
"I think there will always be theatres because that communal experience is important... but the communal experience is fuelled by tradition."
With the rise of streaming platforms and lockdown making theatres inaccessible, Stata worries what this will mean for cinema culture.
"That tradition is broken," he said. "The kids today, they're streaming movies... where's the tradition anymore?"
Highlands Cinemas also offers a touch of nostalgia that you won't get from watching movies at home, from the displays and memorabilia to an extensive collection of cinema projectors.
"A lot of the customers suggest there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world."
How does the future look for your theatre?
Stata says he is unsure of what the future holds for his cinema.
"Getting through the first year is one thing, getting through the second year is going to be something else."
He hopes that the government will introduce a way of helping seasonal businesses through the pandemic.
"All this stuff they're doing now is aimed at people that are having problems now, it totally forgot anybody that was seasonal."
"It's going to come to the point that we have to be open, we have to be normal again," he said.
"We have to have people that want to go to the theatre, we have to have people that aren't afraid to go to the theatre."