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Movie theaters work to keep its doors open despite obstacles from pandemic

The next step to keep things running is on the shoulders of new releases and bigger crowds.
Published: Sep. 13, 2020 at 6:04 PM CDT
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BLACK HILLS, S.D. (KOTA) - With social distancing and other COVID restrictions, local movie theaters struggle to find their footing during the pandemic.

One month ago, Northern Hills Cinema planned to close its doors, leaving its owners reeling. At that time, they said, “I’ve been around this ever since I’ve been two years old, and so consequently, that’s like taking life support system away from yourself,” said John Steele, Northern Hills Cinema owner. “It’s the end of an era, it’s the end of my lifestyle, it’s the end of everything.”

After what seemed like a heartbreaking end, the Spearfish movie theater lives to see another day. But all that can change as they work to keep the projectors rolling on a week by week basis.

“It’s been exciting,” said Nicole Valentine, Northern Hills Cinema general manager. “In the last couple of weeks, we’ve actually been seeing new releases, so previously it was a lot of old throwback movies, which was great everybody was loving them but part of getting things going again is getting those new releases out from Hollywood.”

Valentine described the process of getting new releases as a game of chicken between Hollywood and large cinema studios such as AMC. And the owner of the Elks Theater in downtown Rapid City agrees.

“That’s what we’re here for is to play movies that people haven’t seen or need to see in a theater environment,” said Curt Small, Elks Theater owner. “It was one of those things were, what’s going to happen first, the theaters open or the movies being released and come to find out it’s going to be some sort of happy medium in between.”

Small said the last few months have been difficult for the Elks but believe that if they can survive DVD’s, Blu-ray, and Video on Demand, then they can survive this.

“We survived all three of those,” said Small. “When you’re wagering your family’s future, there’s always a certain amount of nervousness, but I’m going to hold my bet, I think the industry will survive this.”

For Nothern Hills Cinema, throwbacks were their strategy. And as for the Elks theater, it’s “to-go popcorn”. The next step to keep things running is on the shoulders of new releases and bigger crowds.

Copyright 2020 KOTA. All rights reserved.

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