Pete Schellenberg said Keystone Cinema is currently in limbo, but suspects a movie theatre comeback once restrictions are lifted.
Keystone Cinema was forced to close in March 2020, then reopened in the summer before shutting down again in September. A number of Steinbach businesses have reopened in various capacities, but theatres haven’t yet been allowed to.
Schellenberg said the theatre has been paying rent throughout the pandemic, as well as wages and utilities. He thinks it’s time to ease restrictions to at least what they were in the summer. At that time, the theatre was permitted to open at 30 percent capacity, which amounted to 54 people, along with public health measures such as social distancing.
Schellenberg operates the Keystone Cinema independently, meaning the theatre isn’t owned by a large corporation.
Many people stuck at home have taken to streaming new movies, legally and otherwise, but Schellenberg is confident the movie theatre industry will eventually bounce back when restrictions lift.
From his inquiries into the streaming business, he said streaming isn’t necessarily a money-maker. Some streamers wanting to watch new Disney movies need to pay for a subscription to the streaming service first, but then to their annoyance can pay $35 to watch the movies.
Production companies have spent enormous amounts of money making movies, Schellenberg said, and they likely don’t want to show them at only a quarter of the theatres. Actors’ incomes can also be dependent on box office revenues, Schellenberg said.
"It may take a little time to go back," Schellenberg said, "but I’m fairly optimistic it’ll come back."
A backlog could bring about a number of good cinema-suited movies once restrictions lift and regular movie distribution continues, and Schellenberg suspects people will soon be looking to get out of their houses to resume going on dates or other excursions.
"It is what it is," Schellenberg said about the situation, adding he’s glad he’s not starting out in business.