Images Cinema in Williamstown
Update on Lockdown
By: Doug Jones - Oct 07, 2020
Next week, Images Cinema will enter the eighth month of its shutdown. While some movie theaters in Massachusetts have reopened to the public, we have not, nor do we have a specific date set for reopening. At the same time, we miss everyone enormously. Since it’s been so long since we’ve seen most of you in person, I wanted to take the opportunity to update everyone on the current situation at Images.
First, before I begin, I want to acknowledge again the support we’ve received from so many people and organizations in our community. These donations, combined with a few grants and our PPP loan, have been vital to Images’ survival these past several months. Thanks to this help, we have been able to continue to pay our rent and support our staff. There's more to say about the continuing financial challenges Images faces, but right here, I just want to say, again and again, thank you.
In approaching how to reopen responsibly, we have made several changes, both to our standard procedures and to the theater itself. Many things are already in place, but one area is still in progress: addressing the air quality of the theater.
Over the past few months, there’s been a growing awareness of the importance of air quality, especially for indoor spaces where people spend an extended period of time. Before we reopen to the public, we will be implementing a three-point plan to address these concerns, including installing a “needlepoint type ionizer” to our existing HVAC system. This technology, which is being widely adapted by schools, hospitals and other public spaces, cleans the air as it circulates within an indoor space and has been found to be highly efficient in neutralizing the COVID-19 virus.
Once we get this equipment upgraded and the theater itself ready to reopen, there will still be other challenges to face. This past weekend, Cineworld, the second largest theater chain in the country, announced it was once again shutting down its cinemas, this time not due to health concerns, but rather financial concerns. It is simply very difficult to successfully operate a movie theater right now. That is true for large multiplexes, and it is especially true for small, independent nonprofits like Images.
When we reopen with safety guidelines and precautions in place, including reduced showtimes to avoid unnecessary crowds and socially distanced seating within the theater, Images will be operating at only 8% overall capacity. (Due to the size and layout of our theater, the larger audience sizes allowed in Phase 3, Step 2 of Massachusetts’ reopening plan don’t apply to us.)
On top of this, there is an ever-dwindling number of new films being released to movie theaters this year and in early 2021. Most film distributors have completely rearranged their schedules, and many films that we were anticipating screening at Images have either skipped theaters altogether, as Palm Springs did when it went straight to Hulu, or delayed their release entirely until sometime in 2021, as the new Wes Anderson film did.
This means two things as we look toward welcoming people back to Images. First, we will have to be creative and flexible about how we reopen. We may only be open a few hours a day and a few days a week. Perhaps we’ll offer more in the way of private screenings and theater rentals. Classics may screen alongside a few select new titles. We’re exploring all this and more.
Second, even after we reopen, our financial challenges will continue to grow. Ticket sales, hand-in-hand with concessions, have always been a major part of our overall financial budget, and there’s simply no way for that to happen in the current landscape. To make up for this shortfall, we are going to need to increasingly rely on donations and memberships like never before.
As I said earlier, we do not have a specific date when we will reopen Images to the public. I truly hope it will be sometime reasonably soon. Until that day, we will continue our planning for the future, keeping the health and well-being of both our community and Images as an organization in mind. We know what the challenges are, and with your help, we will overcome them, now and in the future.
Thank you again for your concern and support. If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.