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Tippecanoe County movie theaters making adjustments to survive Covid-19 pandemic

Movie theaters are finding this pandemic particularly challenging. While they've been able to make Covid-19 safety adjustments, they're still having trouble seeing customers.

Posted: Jan 12, 2021 10:35 AM
Updated: Jan 12, 2021 10:56 AM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) -- Movie theaters are finding this pandemic particularly challenging. While they've been able to make Covid-19 safety adjustments, they're still having trouble seeing customers.

The Christmas holiday typically brings several sold-out theaters to Wabash Landing 9. This year, management tells me they barely saw enough people to even fill one theater. They're hoping business picks up as theaters nationwide are being forced to close.

"We definitely need customers," said Anthony Wilks, general manager of Wabash Landing 9. "Customers are how we survive and them coming in and buying the tickets, buying the popcorn and the candy, you know, that's something that we definitely need."

Wilks said concessions are their biggest moneymaker. He said the Wabash Landing location sees fairly steady traffic, with many being recurring customers but despite that, times have been tough, especially during this past holiday season.

"Prior to us closing down, there would be days where, in the mornings, we would have anywhere from 50 to 75 people now there are days where we're lucky if that's what we have the entire day," said Wilks.

Wabash Landing 9, Eastside 10 IMAX, and Lafayette 7 are the only movie theaters in Tippecanoe County. All of them were forced to close earlier on in the pandemic under the state's Covid-safety restrictions. But as state safety restrictions loosened and other theaters statewide began re-opening with new safety measures, these theaters stayed closed until August. That's when new management VIP Cinemas officially took over. This extended closure, however, left these theaters going several months without business compared to other theaters across the state.

"VIP Cinemas came through," said Wilks. "They bought us and they got us opened back up with a pretty strong plan of how we need to operate to have a successful future."

The plan includes the theater dropping it's adult ticket prices from $9 to $8.50. They've also dropped concession prices 15 - 25%. And they're allowing friends and family to rent out entire theaters for a base price.

"It would be a real shame if, you know, the theaters kind of went away," said Wilks.

He said Hollywood is expected to release movies that didn't make the big screen last year. He's hopeful that'll attract movie-goers.

"It looks like kind of mid-March, April we're really going to start picking up in movies and we've got some good ones coming out," said Wilks.

According to Wilks, 2020's box office made 2.3 billion dollars, which is about 9 billion dollars less than what it made in 2019. He said 60% of movie theaters have closed nationwide. Overall, local theaters are surviving but they are encouraging more people to come out as they've adopted safety measures and social distancing that have made safe movie going possible.

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