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Movie theaters 'singled out' as they face another shut down from COVID-19

Proprietors remain optimistic: 'This is a war we will win'

The Roxy Cinema theater in Ottawa, as well as all theaters in Illinois, will have to close on Friday after Tuesday's announcement by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health that the entire state would be moved to Tier 3 mitigations.
The Roxy Cinema theater in Ottawa, as well as all theaters in Illinois, will have to close on Friday after Tuesday's announcement by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health that the entire state would be moved to Tier 3 mitigations.

The Tuesday announcement from Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health that the entire state would move to Tier 3 mitigations starting Friday to help stop the spread of COVID-19 means that some businesses, including movie theaters, will have to close.

Many theaters, including three in La Salle and Bureau counties, were already operating on limited days and show times, while enduring a shutdown starting in mid-March into late June.

“I wish that was my deal ... the amount of people I have coming in is less than 25% anyway,” Roxy Cinemas spokesperson Mark McSparin said, referring to the new mitigations limiting capacity at retail shops, including “big box” stores and health and fitness centers, to 25%. “I’d love to have that option. I saw this happened in Michigan a couple of days ago, and as soon as I saw that, I knew that Pritzker would follow suit. He’s done it every time another governor has shut something down. I [am] OK with 25% capacity; we are already there now. I saw this coming.

“It is very aggravating to be singled out when you are following all of the protocols and safety guidelines while others are allowed to remain open, I can tell you that. It doesn’t make sense to me to say this works, but this doesn’t. This is just pulling the carpet out from under anyone that is in this industry.

“I’m not making any money anyway, I might be cheaper to be closed, but what about my employees? What are they going to do?”

As the state sees its highest level of hospitalizations for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, one of the biggest times of the year for theaters – the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays – is right around the corner.

“After the summer season, the holidays are our second-busiest season,” Princeton’s Apollo Theater owner Jay Schneider said. “We were already closed except for the weekends [and private showings Monday-Thursday], and now we’re closed altogether. This is not good for anybody, especially small-town theaters.

“We need to get this [virus] under control, and that takes everyone working together to do the right things.”

According to a Los Angeles Times article, AMC Entertainment, owner of the world’s largest movie theater circuit and owner of the theater in the Peru Mall, lost more than $900 million in the third quarter, even with the vast majority of its locations open for business. Since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the film business in March, AMC has reopened 539 locations, or 90% of its 600 U.S. movie houses.

It’s hitting local movie establishments just as hard.

“The [COVID-19] numbers are bad, and I’m concerned about people’s health,” Streator Eagle 6 owner Eric Gubelman said. “We all bear some of the responsibility for not doing the best we can to make it possible for businesses to be able to stay open. We just have to find a way to hold on.

“This is not a good thing, but we are going to keep a positive attitude. My next phone call is going to be to my employees to discuss how we do that and survive. The plus side is that we have two companies that are on the edge of finishing a vaccine with over a 90% effective rate, and New York Times article published with data that suggests that once you’ve had COVID-19 that you have an extended immunity period.

“No one wants to be the last casualty in a war that’s about to end, but this is a war we will win.”

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